Cary Christian’s veteran boys tennis team met Grace Christian Raleigh’s young lineup that used two juniors, two sophomores, two freshmen and a sixth-grader with predictable results.
The Knights won 7-2 over Grace Christian in both schools’ Eastern Plains Independent Conference opener Tuesday at Goldbold Park. Cary Christian improved to 2-1 and 1-0 in EPIC, while the Eagles fell to 0-3, 0-1.
With the singles match played first, Cary Christian’s 6-0 start clinched the victory and allowed Knights coach Tim Bolden use six new players in doubles.
“We want everybody to get playing time when we have the opportunity,” Bolden said. “We want them to keep developing.”
For the Knights, the match was the first step toward challenging perennial state power and defending conference champion St. David’s of Raleigh.
“We’d like to beat St. David’s, but we know they’re a tough team,” said junior Christian Jacobsen, the Knights’ No. 1 singles player. “We know we have to work together as a team and try for our personal bests in singles. We’re a close group, and that helps us.”
Jacobsen, who earned N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association all-state honors last year, won his match 6-0, 6-0. Four other Knights winning singles easily were junior Blake Ledlow at No. 3, 6-0, 6-1; junior Noah Hayes at No. 4, 6-0, 6-1; junior Wesley Newcomb at No. 5, 6-0, 6-0; and senior Garrett Finnegan at No. 6, 6-0, 6-0.
The closest singles match was at No. 2. Grace Christian sophomore Drew Harbour pushed Cary Christian senior Ethan Bolden until Bolden pulled out a 6-1, 4-6 (10-8) win in the tiebreaker.
Harbour also teamed with sophomore James German for an 8-6 win at No. 1 doubles. The Eagles’ other team point was at No. 2 doubles with junior Zach Alcorn and freshman Tanner Ballance winning 8-3.
Grace Christian’s young lineup is due to graduation and losing last year’s No. 1 singles, Nico Hillman, who is focused on future commitments as a senior. Hillman has been accepted to the Air Force Academy in the fall and is committed to a mission this spring with a church group to Costa Rica.
“He came to and said, ‘I’m so sorry, but I don’t think I can play this year, coach,” said Grace Christian coach Boyd Howard. “I told him, ‘Go, take care of what you have planned. I understand.’ ”
The doubles competition marked the unofficial debut of Grace Christian sixth-grader J.J. Krasnick. He has been practicing with the team and playing exhibition matches, but he’s not eligible for the varsity until next year as a seventh-grader.
But with Cary Christian having already clinched the match, Howard, with Bolden’s approval, inserted Krasnick at No. 3 doubles with sophomore Andrew Delgatty. However, they fell to sophomore London Morrill and sophomore Christian Shriver 8-2.
“I told J.J. not to transfer,” Howard said with a laugh. “He’s a rising star.”