More than an hour after Middle Creek’s Nick Stachowiak breezed to the senior’s third Southwest Wake Athletic Conference boys singles tennis title, Panther Creek’s Sidd Pal demonstrated the respect he commands among his peers.
As Pal scored the decisive point to win 6-1, 3-6 (10-6) over Cary’s Lawrence Friedland Tuesday at Cary Tennis Park, he thrust a fist into the air and shouted, “Stachowiak!”
“He’s a great player and a humble guy,” said Pal, adding, “and he helped me with my serve.”
Pal and Friedlander were both assured of advancing to the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A regionals since the match only decided who represents the conference as the No. 5 and No. 6 entries. But that didn’t stop Pal from paying respect to his quasi-instructor.
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“He showed me something technical,” explained Pal.
The Duke-bound Stachowiak, who next will be seeking his third NCHSAA Mideast regional and 4A state titles, likely would have collected his fourth SWAC title if not for a back injury that sidelined him in his sophomore year.
He won the finals over Green Hope junior Ben Wayand, 6-0, 6-0. He also won his quarterfinal and semifinal matches 6-0, 6-0. The only game he gave up was in the first round against Athens Drive’s Declan Hoffman, 6-0, 6-1. There is no prize for the distinction, of course, but Hoffman’s point didn’t go unnoticed at the tournament.
“It felt special to me,” said Hoffman with a big smile amid chuckles from fans standing nearby. “I just went for winners every time.”
Stachowiak collects high school titles routinely, but he appreciates them all.
“Winning for Middle Creek is always important to me,” he said. “I love representing my school. I like giving back by playing my best. All the teachers and staff around the school are very supportive – not just to me but for the whole tennis program. It’s a very special thing.”
The other two SWAC singles players earning berths into the regionals were Panther Creek sophomore Trice Pickens and Green Hope freshman Vivek Ramesh.
The Green Hope tandem of senior George Edwards and junior Rohit Ghotkar upset Panther Creek’s top-seeded team of freshman Alex Kim and freshman Donovan Lilov, 7-5, 7-5.
Edwards and Ghotkar, seeded second, were paired as a new doubles team at midseason when they lost to Kim and Lilov in a SWAC team tennis match.
“Our chemistry has grown since then,” Ghotkar said.
Added Edwards: “We had better strategy and more energy. We knew we had to play our best tennis to beat these guys.”
The next four doubles teams also earned berths into the regionals. Placing third were Middle Creek’s McGrew brothers, junior Grant and freshman Owen.
The next three teams, in order, were Green Hope senior Eshaan Javalkar and senior Matt Whitney; Panther Creek senior Aditiya Kakkar and sophomore Nadir Bajwa; and Middle Creek junior Alex Lycan and senior James Rana.