The first few weeks of the season foreshadowed the way things went when the East Wake boys tennis team visited Knightdale on Wednesday.
The Warriors dispatched the Knights 9-0 for their first shutout win of the season and got one notch closer in their quest to finish in the top-2 in the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference standings this spring.
East Wake (6-2, 5-1 GNRC) wouldn’t be opposed by any means to winning the league, but for a fourth straight season the Warriors are facing a brick wall between them and Clayton. The Comets – led by league standout senior Klein Evans and now featuring his freshman brother, Banks – shut out the Warriors in their Feb. 29 season and GNRC opener.
“We played close with them two and three years ago when Klein was younger, but since then it is you can’t touch them,” said East Wake coach Jackson Glasgow.
The Warriors, led by junior Jake Clement and senior Brooks Stancil, have finished in at least a tie for second place in the GNRC for the past three years, each time chasing conference champ Clayton.
Finishing second for the fourth straight time would satisfy Glasgow considering the Clayton situation and improved teams at Garner, Rolesville, Southeast Raleigh and West Johnston.
“We have to fight for it more this year,” Glasgow said. “A lot of different teams can come up and get one on you.”
Knightdale (0-6) is in the greatest rebuilding phase the program has seen in the past 10 years. The team has no returning players.
Coach Martin Faison, who returns after a year working in another state, had just four players hit the court for the first three matches of the season. That meant the Knights forfeited two singles matches and a doubles match in each of those contests.
The team now has seven players and continues looking for more like Andy Pineda-Gamez, one of the latecomers to the team who won at No. 6 singles the day after his first ever organized tennis practice.
Faison is no stranger to the situation. The program has been constantly reloading since sharing the GNRC title in 2012.
”The way we gauge our success has changed but the expectations have remained the same, which is always improving,” Faison said.
On the Court
East Wake’s other loss was a shutout by nonconference Cary. The Warriors have wins over Cap-8 Wake Forest (5-4), and over Garner (5-4), Southeast Raleigh (6-3), Rolesville and West Johnston (8-1) in the first GNRC cycle.
“I’m pleased,” Glasgow said. “We lost Will (Clement), who had been a solid No. 1 for a long time, and I was a little nervous about replacing him. But everyone has stepped up in the lineup and we’re real solid at 1, 2 and 3 (Will D’Allaird).
Vince Belgra leads the Knights, but Faison said No. 2 Jesse Durham and No. 3 Simon Diaz play comparable tennis.
“I want to see my them all enjoy the game and continue to want to play,” Faison said.
Jake Clement defeated Belgra in two clean sets in No. 1 singles on Wednesday. East Wake’s Stancil also shut out Durham, as did D’Allaird over Diaz.
East Wake No. 4 Josh Hatley gave up a single game to Jordan Hankins like Khadeem Dublin did to Zac El Jachari on court No. 5.
It took a third set for East Wake’s AJ Swaim to complete the singles sweep for the Warriors with his 4-6, 6-2, 12-10 win over Pineda-Gamez.
In doubles, Stancil and Aaron Ziegler defeated Belgra and Diaz, 8-3; Dublin and Tyler Madjar held off Durham and Pineda-Gamez, 9-7; and Hatley and Nathaniel Horton eased by Hankins and El Jachari, 8-1.