Panther Creek’s boys tennis players recognize they may not be ready to dethrone state-power Green Hope in the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference standings, but the Catamounts continue to work toward their dream season.
Panther Creek posted the kind of dominating score that rival Green Hope routinely wins by as the visiting Catamounts defeated Apex 9-0 in a SWAC match Wednesday as Annie Jones Park.
“We’re trying to maintain our winning tradition we’ve had here by making the state playoffs again,” said senior Alex Zietlow, who recorded two team points in singles and doubles. “As seniors we’re trying to instill a winning mentality in the younger players just as they seniors did when we were younger players.”
Panther Creek has been a three-time SWAC runner-up to Green Hope, which has shared or won outright the conference title for 13th straight years.
“I’ve never beaten Green Hope, ever,” Zietlow said. “If our senior class can pull off an upset of Green Hope, it would be awesome.”
With the shutout victory, Panther Creek improved to 4-0, while Apex dropped to 1-4. The records are all in SWAC play for both schools.
Zietlow, one of two seniors along with Ty Giggey against Apex, won singles 6-0, 6-0 and teamed with sophomore Akash Nijhawan to win No. 3 doubles 8-1.
Giggey won 6-2, 6-1 at No. 1 singles and teamed with sophomore Aditya Kakkar to win No. 1 doubles 8-1. Kakkar also won No. 3 singles 6-0, 6-0.
Freshman Sidd Pal won at No. 2 singles 6-3, 6-0 and junior Nadir Bajwa won at No. 4 singles 6-1, 6-0. Pal and Bajwa teamed at No. 2 doubles for an 8-0 victory. Panther Creek’s other team point came from junior Jimmy Press with a 6-3, 6-1 win at singles.
Pal and Kakkar have added promising talent to the roster as freshmen.
“Whenever you’re the youngest, it’s always great to be out there hitting with older players,” Pal said. “When you beat older players, it means more. I’m not surprised I made the varsity, but being No. 2 singles is special.”
Apex has an inexperienced lineup with no seniors. Cougars coach Lynn Thomas says her focus this season is on improving skills, gaining experience and enjoying the game.
“Winning may not be as much of a priority as I’d like it to be,” Thomas said. “It’s more about improvement, gaining experience, enjoying the competition and realizing if you play more tennis, that (a tough opponent) can be you.”
Junior Roberto Mares (3-6, 0-6) and junior Jack Morin (3-6, 1-6) were the most competitive among the Cougars in losses by winning three games in one of the sets.
“Win or lose, I want us to be competitive,” Thomas said. “We’ll working on positioning in doubles and steadiness in singles. At least that way we can be more competitive and gain experience for next year.”