Clayton survived its toughest boys tennis match of the season early last week, then reeled off two more 9-0 victories to finish unbeaten in the dual season. The Comets finished the regular season 15-0 and clinched their third straight Greater Neuse River 4A Conference championship four days after a 6-3 win over East Wake on April 13.
The Comets, who are ranked in the top 10 statewide poll, will host a wild card entry on Tuesday, April 28, in the opening round of the NCHSAA 4A dual team playoffs.
A pair of big comebacks against East Wake helped the Comets avoid their first loss of the season. Freshman Chris Riley trailed 5-2 in its No. 3 singles match against Brooks Stancil, but Riley won 11 straight games to take a 7-5, 6-0 victory.
And at No. 5, Vance Lanier won a very tight match against East Wake’s Josh Hatley at No. 5 singles. Lanier trailed 5-1 in the first-set tiebreaker before rallying for an 8-6 decision. He then edged Hatley 7-5 in the second set for a 7-6, 7-5 decision.
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Doubles play saw the top-seeded pair of Klein Evans and Dillon Hyde had the Clement brothers — Will and Jake — only their second loss of the season in an 8-2 decision. The Clements’ only losses this season are to Evans and Brooks Campbell and Evans and Hyde. Hyde stepped into the lineup last week with Campbell away at a school event.
Evans won his singles match against Will Clement, 6-0, 6-0, then rolled to two more straight set wins in the Comets’ 9-0 triumphs over Southeast Raleigh and Rolesville to run his record in Greater Neuse River 4A Conference to 50-0 in singles play, counting conference tournament and regular-season matches.
The Comets have only lost four individual matches on the season. Five Clayton singles players are unbeaten this season: Evans, Brooks Campbell (14-0 at No. 2), Christopher Riley (14-0, mainly at No. 4), Hyde (14-0, mainly at No. 5) and Vance Lanier (13-0, mainly at No. 6).
“Brooks Campbell is a more consistent player this year and has improved his serve and volley game,” said Clayton coach Ken Stivason. “The addition of Freshman Chris Riley and Dillon Hyde has given us more depth and talent in the starting lineup. Vance is more consistent with his ground strokes this season.
“This year’s team is stronger one through six than last year’s conference championship team in singles and doubles.”
And Clayton has done all of this even though it has only played three matches on its homecourt this season. Cracks have developed across multiple courts that allow water to seep onto the playing surface for multiple days after rain falls on the court. (Clayton will host its dual playoff opener at the Clayton Communtiy Park tennis courts.)
The pairings of Campbell and Evans (at No. 1), Naren Guha and Riley (at No. 2) and Hyde and Lanier (at No. 3) are unbeaten in doubles play together.
Clayton’s year highlights what has been a very solid year for Johnston boys tennis squads. Four teams are headed for the dual playoffs next week.
Corinth Holders has clinched the Two Rivers 3A Conference dual team championship. Zac Blinson is 18-0 in singles and doubles matches combined for the Pirates. He has played mainly No. 2 or 3 singles and in the top two doubles matches. Jake Altman is 17-0 this season and Patrick Johnston is 16-0; Christian Green has compiled a 12-1 mark.
Top-seed William Xia is 7-2 in singles play and 7-1 in doubles action.
Cleveland, which finished its season Monday against Western Harnett, is likely to finish second in the conference. Top-seed Dylan Betancourt has been a part of 20 wins in combined singles and doubles play for the Rams; No. 2 seed Quinton Gonzalez is 18-4.
North Johnston is the runner-up finisher in the Eastern Plains 2A Conference. Senior C.J. Jackson and sophomore Ian Walston both have nine singles wins each on the season and Jeremiah Coley and Tyler Jackson — a pair of sophomores — have eight wins each.
Princeton fielded its first boys tennis team this spring. Freshmen Ian Rowe and Rian Tew have both won in singles for the Bulldogs.
Garner and East Wake are in a battle for the last automatic dual playoff bid in the 4A playoffs. The two teams split with each other during the regular season and were finishing up their regular-season league slates early this week.