Moments after East Chapel Hill finished its last doubles match in Thursday’s 8-1 tennis victory at Chapel Hill, Wildcat coach Nick Walker had some simple advice for his players.
“Next week, get plenty of rest and play lots of tennis and be ready as soon as you come back,” Walker told the Wildcats gathered around him. “We’re going to be very busy the week after spring break – three teams in a week.”
East Chapel Hill heads its break at 6-2 overall and 5-1 in PAC-6 matches. It then plays three matches in three days – hosting Jordan for a PAC-6 match on April 5 and Broughton on April 6, and then playing at PAC-6 opponent Roxboro Person on April 7.
The Wildcats didn’t look like they needed a lot of rest after winning at 3A Chapel Hill. They clinched Thursday’s match on their crosstown rival’s courts by going 5-1 in singles.
Walker said looks could be deceiving.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do if we’re going to be successful,” Walker said. “We really need to work on our doubles.”
Walker switched up his doubles lineups in both matches played since a 5-4 loss to Cardinal Gibbons, when the Crusaders, down 4-2 after singles, pulled out the win by sweeping the doubles matches.
In a 9-0 win Monday in a PAC-6 match at Durham Riverside, East kept top singles players Kevin Huang and senior Thomas Wang paired at No. 1 doubles, but moved sophomores Chris Broadwell and Vincent Xia up from No. 3 to No. 2 doubles. Sophomores Ben McLean and Jack Phillips at No. 3 made their second appearance together this season. All three East pairs won 8-1 at Riverside.
Thursday, Walker created two new pairings: Huang, a junior, with senior Aiden Zimmerman at No. 1, and Wang with sophomore Grame Zimmerman at No. 2. Sophomores Vincent Xia and McLean made just their second appearance together at No. 3.
Huang and Zimmerman won 8-2 at Chapel Hill, Wang and Grame Zimmerman won 8-3, while Xia and McLean also won 8-3 to even their season record at 1-1.
With straight set victories in Thursday’s singles, Huang improved to 7-0 at No. 1, and Wang went 8-0 with his win at No. 2.
Grame Zimmerman at No. 4 and Vincent Xia at No. 5 also won in straight sets.
East’s Aidan Zimmerman clinched the team victory in a two-hour, split-set match with Patrick Dayton. Zimmerman won the first set 6-4, but Dayton rallied with strong service in a 7-5 second set before Zimmerman won the “third set” tiebreaker 10-5.
Sophomore Zach Bolzan got Chapel Hill’s lone win with his 6-2, 2-6 (10-8) decision against McLean at No. 6 singles.
Chapel Hill coach Neil Alderman said his Tigers (4-2 overall) benefited from the match. Both the Tigers’ losses have come against 4A teams – Cardinal Gibbons and East – and Chapel Hill remains unbeaten in Big 8 Conference matches.
“The kids really get into this match,” Alderman said, adding that they gained by playing better opponents. “They’re very good, very good.”
Walker has seen the rivalry from both sides. He coached almost 20 years at Chapel Hill before retiring from teaching. He took over East Chapel Hill’s tennis program last fall, on an interim basis, at the personal request of former Wildcat coach Lindsay Linker upon her retirement. (Ironically enough, Walker had left Orange High and succeeded Linker at Chapel Hill in 1991 after she left CHHS to go to East.)
“This means more to the kids than other matches. It’s a friendly rivalry,” Walker said. “Kids in this town really understand tennis. You play hard; you play to win, but you remain friends after the match.”