In a battle that had the feel of a British soccer match, Enloe’s boys’ tennis team fought past Cardinal Gibbons 6-3 at home in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A dual-team playoffs on Tuesday.
Tennis is usually a fairly staid sport, but emotions were high – despite the two teams not having any history with each other.
Late in the No. 3 singles match, Enloe’s Shantanu Sharma and Gibbons’ Brody Chapman argued about the score. At No. 2 singles, Eagles coach Stephen Spivey vocally responded to a look from the Crusaders’ Kyler Zadell, which prompted a response from Gibbons’ No. 1 player, Jim Mantyh.
Crusaders coach Andrew Tuttle had to move one of his players away from the fence to prevent the player from yelling at Enloe’s Nos. 1 and 2 players.
Then, during the doubles matches, Spivey called Mantyh a profanity.
“I shouldn’t have done it, but the guy had been yelling at me like 20 times during the whole match, starting from the second point,” Spivey said. “He’s been yelling my name, calling me names, and I just had enough. I don’t like for a 17-year-old kid to be yelling at me. I shouldn’t have (yelled back), I should’ve been more mature, but sometimes you get in the heat of the battle and say things you don’t really mean.
“I apologized to the coach. I just like for the guys to play hard, and I don’t like for any one player to be yelling at me. None of my players better not ever yell at the other coach like he did at me. That’s just uncalled for.”
Mantyh, who beat Rohan Chandrasekhar at No. 1 singles 7-5, 7-5, tried to take the high road.
“There’s not going to be another comment,” Mantyh said. “I’m just going to say he’s immature.”
Enloe players acknowledged the high emotions of the match.
“Because this was such an important match, there were a lot of high stresses going in,” Sharma said. “That’s why there were a lot of conflicts.”
Tuttle said some of his players knew some Eagles’ players from competition outside of high school but knew of no conflicts. He said it was simply the playoff intensity coming through.
“Some of our guys know each other from tournaments and stuff like that,” Tuttle said. “Any time there’s a lot on the line – and we knew it was going to be a close match coming in – it’s just the emotions of the game. Players get upset, they say things.
“I’m sure after the match, our guys will end up running into their guys at tournaments, and (there) will be no hard feelings. It’ll be, ‘You guys won and played the better match today. Let’s compete next time on the court.’”
Mike Ogondele, who won at No. 2 singles over Zadell, said Enloe has faced chatter from opponents before.
“We’re used to it,” Ogundele said. “We’ve just got to focus, be mature, play our game and win.”
The Eagles (15-1) won four of the six singles matches, getting big wins from sophomore Ethan Saber at No. 4 and freshman Revanth Bobba at No. 6. Those underclassmen then combined to beat Brendan Stewart and Will Reese at No. 3 doubles 10-1 to clinch the match.
“They’re really tough,” Spivey said. “They blend well together, they’ve got good chemistry together in doubles. In singles, they just go out there and they win. They don’t beat themselves, that’s the biggest thing.”
Next up for Enloe is unbeaten Panther Creek, another No. 1 seed.
“We’re looking stronger than ever right now,” Sharma said. “We know Panther Creek’s getting a lot of the attention, but Enloe’s up and coming, and we have our eyes set on the prize. People underestimate us, but we’re coming for you, Panther Creek.”
For Tuttle and his Crusaders (20-6), the focus is now on 2017, which will be Gibbons’ second season of 4A competition.
“We’ll bounce back next year,” Tuttle said. “Losing in the playoffs definitely fires up the players who are returning to work that much harder in the offseason so when they get back to this point they can come out on top.”