Time off for spring break didn’t mean time off for the Panther Creek boys tennis team’s search for its first Southwest Wake Athletic Conference title.
The Catamounts got together for workouts over spring break, a proactive action unprecedented by PC teams of the past, and the results showed in Monday’s 7-2 home victory against Middle Creek (8-3, 6-3)
The amount of success that the three-time 4A state champion girls team has had on the courts is starting to show on the boys’ side.
“This group is much more focused and committed to trying to win the whole thing,” Panther Creek coach Nathaniel Blalock said. “It’s a big difference. Before, our goal was just always to beat Green Hope.”
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With top-seed players graduating in 2015, the Catamounts’ (10-0, 9-0) undefeated run to open this year wasn’t one that Blalock foresaw.
“We’ve got five new faces that have energized and sparked interest in the other guys and they’re working a lot better as a team than even I anticipated,” he said. “It’s been a nice, welcomed surprise.”
Middle Creek’s Nick Stachowiak, a Duke recruit, played a hand in both of the Mustangs’ points. Stachowiak defeated Andrew Pickens (6-3, 6-3) in the No. 1 singles and teamed up with Grant McGrew to edge Pickens and Sidd Pal 8-6 in No. 1 doubles.
Panther Creek swept the remaining sets with the margin of victory widening with seed number. Alex Kim and Donovan Lilov won No. 2 doubles 8-4 and Aditya Kakkar and Nadir Bajwa won No. 3 8-1.
The same trend carried over in singles, too, as Kim took at No. 2 (7-5, 6-3), Lilov won No. 3 (6-2, 7-5), Pal edged Owen McGrew (6-4, 6-4) in No. 4, Kakkar was a (6-1, 6-0) victor in No. 5 and Bajwa finished off with a (6-0, 6-2) victory against James Ranta at No. 6.
Middle Creek still has a two-game lead on third place in the SWAC standings, and hope the tough competition against conference powerhouses like Green Hope and Panther Creek will play in its favor if they earn a wild-card bid.
“Our kids are playing with a lot of confidence, a lot of these matches today were close,” Middle Creek coach Jeremy Cunningham said. “We’re probably better … than some of the conference champions from other conferences so we’re playing against two of the best teams in the whole state. Our kids are confident and ready to go.”