Clayton junior Klein Evans did something no other tennis player has been able to do this season in Saturday’s NCHSAA 4A singles state championship match: win a set against Middle Creek standout Nick Stachowiak.
But Stachowiak, who is ranked 12th nationally in the junior class and committed to Duke in December, stormed back to win the third set, 6-2. His 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 decision gave him his second state championship. (He missed last season because of a back injury.)
Stachowiak also played Saturday with a little extra motivation. At the end of February, Middle Creek tennis coach Rhonda Blanchard passed away.
“Going into this this match I knew she was watching over it,” Stachowiak said. “And after getting the win, I know she’s smiling.
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“I played well in the first set but got a little frustrated in the second and then got it back together,” Stachowiak said of his win. “And Klein played well.”
Jeremy Cunningham, who stepped in to coach the Mustangs, watched Stachowiak dominate his matches all season.
“He started out playing well and even after he lost the second set, I thought he still had the match under control,” Cunningham said. “Nick had a pretty good day, and his opponent played really well.”
A year after finishing third in the state, Evans completed his season with a 26-3 mark individually with two losses to Stachowiak and one to Wakefield’s Bo Boyden who was half of the Wolverines’ state title-winning doubles team on Saturday.
“Yesterday was a tough day with three matches, and I came out a little nervous today,” Evans said. “And I think Nick saw that and he dominated early, but in the second set I played really well.”
Evans grabbed three straight set victories on the way to the finals Friday. He beat Richmond County’s Colt Auman, 6-1, 6-0, topped Lake Norman’s Ryan Jurist, 6-3, 6-4, and downed Wakefield’s Blake Carter, 6-3, 6-1 in the semifinals, setting up Saturday’s showdown with Stachowiak.
“Klein played well today, but he just got beat by a very good player,” said Clayton coach Ken Stivason. “Klein had a great season and a great tournament.”
Stivason said a growth spurt has helped bring more power to Evans’ game this season, a year after he finished third in the state as a sophomore.
Evans already has high goals for his senior season: “My goal for next year is to get team to the state dual tournament and make it back here (states) as an individual.”
3A Singles Championships: Cleveland’s two entries into the 3A state championships at the Burlington Tennis Center both took first-round losses. Dylan Betancourt, the regional champion, fell to Fayetteville Terry Sanford’s Henry Lieberman, 6-1, 6-1. Quinton Gonzalez took a 6-0, 6-0 loss to Mark Fujino of Northern Guilford.