Nick Stachowiak completed an unbeaten high school boys tennis career with his third state title, but this time the Middle Creek senior had to work – for him – overtime.
The Duke-bound Stachowiak won 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 over Indiana-bound Bennett Crane of Winston-Salem’s R.J. Reynolds in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A championship Saturday at Millbrook Exchange Park. It was only the second time Stachowiak, who missed his sophomore year with a back injury, needed three sets to win a high school match.
“I had a big target on my back for this tournament,” Stachowiak said. “It was a challenge, but now that I’ve won, I’m relieved.”
Stachowiak, in typical fashion, thanked the Middle Creek community but also mentioned the late Rhonda Blanchard. She was the Mustangs’ coach when he won 4A state as a freshman, but the Middle Creek teacher and boys and girls tennis coach died unexpectedly shortly before his junior season.
“Coach Blanchard meant so much to the program,” he said. “She promoted tennis around the school because it’s not as big as football and basketball. She was a great supporter. She was someone I’ll never forget and always look up to.”
Stachowiak is rarely pushed past 6-0, 6-1 in high school matches and started out Saturday’s competition routinely. He won his semifinal over Lake Norman’s Ryan Jurist, 6-2, 6-2.
He opened the finals winning the first set 6-2, but the 5-foot-10 Stachowiak was facing a rare opponent. The 6-foot-3 Crane was seemingly less intimidated since he had beaten Stachowiak in three sets last fall in a non-high school North Carolina men’s open. Stachowiak is ranked No. 5 nationally by TennisRecruiting.net and Crane No. 16.
In the second set, Crane broke Stachowiak twice for a 6-3 win as Stachowiak struggled with his serve. Was a rare lengthy match that ended up lasting 2 hours, 25 minutes catching up to him? Stachowiak said it was more mental than physical. He trains twice a week with an Associated Tournament Players trainer to compensate for the lack of high school match conditioning.
“Getting down a break in the second set mentally drained me,” Stachowiak said. “I’m playing a kid that is bigger than me with a good serve. I just had to battle through it. I think my mental game is one of the best parts of my game. I knew if I stayed the course I would give myself a good chance to win.”
In the third set, Crane served with the score 3-3, but Stachowiak, known for all-around skills and velocity greater or equal to larger players, broke Crane for a 4-3 lead. He served four straight points for a 5-3 lead and closed out the match, breaking Crane again.
The Middle Creek fans gave him a standing ovation. Stachowiak was 27-0 as a senior and 24-0 as a junior; his freshman record requires more research.
“Nick showed his resolve,” Middle Creek Coach Jeremy Cunningham said. “He was dialed in for that third set. I know Coach Blanchard was watching down on him and would be very proud.”
Stachowiak finishes as one of eight three-time singles champions in NCHSAA history.
In the doubles competition, Enloe’s Michael Ogundele and Rohan Chandrasekhar lost in the semifinals 1-6, 4-6 to R.J. Reynolds’ Tristan Smith and Huntley Allen. In the final, Hardy Brown and Jack Oldis from Greensboro’s Page High defeated Smith and Allen, 6-4, 6-4.