If their match play proves as tough as scheduling their contests, East Chapel Hill and Carrboro would be in real trouble this season.
The operative word there is “if.” Regardless of when they finally get onto the court, both programs remain strong contenders to make good runs into the postseason dual-team playoffs, as does Chapel Hill.
Carrboro and East had planned to scrimmage in late February. When weather made that impossible, Carrboro coach Jon Noyes contacted East’s Nick Walker to hastily arrange a match for last Thursday, but some illnesses among the Carrboro players prompted a cancellation.
The two-time defending N.C. High School’s 2A champion, Carrboro returns most of last year’s 14-1 team. They’re led by Jake Zinn, who won the state 2A doubles championship last year with 2015 senior Max Fritsch.
Carrboro’s No. 2 singles player Brian Freiburghouse and No. 3 Zach Anderson both reached the 2A singles quarterfinals; they didn’t lose a single match in 2015, and the same was true for No. 5 Andre Javan and No. 6 Jason Wykuff.
(Wykuff and Sean Ross were the 2A doubles runner-up team against Zinn and Fritsch.)
East Chapel Hill, 13-2 last year, has yet to lose an individual match in 2016. It opened the season with a 9-0 shutout of Hillside and won 8-0 at Durham Jordan, the latter being considered one of the better teams in the PAC-6.
East swept both teams in straight sets, opting not to play a No. 1 doubles match at Jordan with the team match decided, because the No. 2 singles match – a 3-6, 6-3 (10-3) victory by Thomas Wang – finished as darkness fell.
East’s most experienced players from last year, Kevin Huang and Wang, have started the year at No. 1 and 2, respectively. They’re 2-0 so far, as are Aidan Zimmerman at No.3, Grame Zimmerman at No. 4, Vincent Xia at No. 5 and Sidharth Sirdeshmuth at No. 6.
The East ladder almost directly correlates with each player’s experience.
“East lost a lot of seniors, and now the guys who were in reserve roles are moving up,” East coach Nick Walker said. “They have the skills and the strokes. Now they’re working on the mental and physical endurance part of playing longer matches.”
Chapel Hill (12-4 last year) is starting its schedule a bit later than some teams, but gets busy as soon as the Tigers take the court.
Chapel Hill will open its season with a Big 8 Conference opponent and will play three matches in three days – 4:30 p.m. Monday at Big 8 rival Northwood; 4 p.m. Tuesday at home against NCISAA member Ravenscroft; and 4:30 p.m. Wednesday against Oxford Webb in another Big 8 match.
The Tigers graduated four of their top six players from last year, but they also lost Cardinal Gibbons (now in the PAC-6 with East) as a Big 8 rival. The Tigers are favored to win the conference crown this year.
Another nearby team expects to make some noise among private schools. Carolina Friends School seniors David Bond and Tate Godwin both made the N.C. Independent Schools Athletics Association 2A all-state team last year.