Panther Creek (21-1) made its first trip to the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A boys tennis dual-team finals after an undefeated regular season and its first conference title.
The Catamounts won their matches thanks to their top-to-bottom depth, which they’ll have again with five starters back: Trice Pickens, Alex Kim, Donovan Lilov, Sidd Pal and Nadir Bajwa.
4A: Millbrook (16-3), which lost to Panther Creek in the 4A East final, brings back three starters: Josiah Schainblatt, conference singles champ Mohamed Almontaser and Matt Bryan.
Enloe (16-2) will return four starters from last year’s team that fell to Panther Creek 5-4 in the 4A East semifinals. Juniors Michael Ogundele, Ethan Saber, and Nathan Griffith and sophomore Revanth Bobba will be joined by freshman Naveen Reddy and senior Junious Whitaker in the top six.
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Cardinal Gibbons (20-6) returns five starters from last year’s PAC-6 Conference champions: Kyler Zadell, Brody Chapman, Senior, Peter Glenn, Will Reese and Caleb Suh.
Wakefield (13-4) returns two All-Metro players in Nico Grewe and Blake Carter.
Green Hope (17-4) was hit hard by graduation and returns just Rohit Ghotkar to its lineup. Clayton (19-1) and East Chapel Hill (14-4) should also be factors in the 4A playoffs.
Middle Creek (14-5) just missed the playoffs last year but brings back four of its top six. Grant McGrew, Dean Zoglio, Owen McGrew, Alex Lycan, Will Anderson and Henry Hollyday.
D.H. Conley (17-1) suffered its only loss in the postseason.
Sanderson (6-9) is hoping for a turnaround season with expected starters: Brady Lozow, Sam Marsh, Griffin Law, Joseph Murphy, Blake Prince and Harrison Kuehl.
Cary (13-7) brings back its entire lineup. Athens Drive (3-12), coached by football coach Jeremy Fullbright, has 24 players on its roster and no seniors. Brian Chetwynd is the only returning starter.
Holly Springs (6-10) has Alex Kim, Graham Carter, Kyle Digman, Matt Capobianco and Mike Pupi returning.
3A: Union Pines (19-4), the 3A East runner-up, brings back five starters: Will Hart, Sean Melia, Vaughn Blakely, Blake Deaton and Spencer Lynch.
Rocky Mount (12-3), in coach Barry Nethercutt’s 29th year, returns its top seven players from a year ago: Tyler Brice (conference player of the year), George Shannon, Landon Norwood, Langley Salter, Sam Phillips, Spencer Harris and Ben Ousterhout.
The Gryphons will challenge Fike (16-3) for a conference title. Chapel Hill (13-3) edged Orange (13-4) for the Big 8 Conference crown. Eastern Wayne (12-4) and Cleveland (12-5) return as defending No. 1 seeds from their respective conferences.
2A: N.C. School of Science and Math (12-0) is the reigning state champion and defeated North Johnston (18-5) in the East final and Carrboro (15-6) in the first round. Durham School of the Arts (11-5) also figures to be a factor in the playoffs.
Carrboro is led by Jason Wykoff, one half of a state championship doubles team, while NCSSM brings back singles semifinalist Depei Yu.
1A: Two-time defending state champ Raleigh Charter (16-1) looks loaded again, returning five of its top six and nine of its top 10. Harrison Tseng and Chinna Baskaran are the top returners for the Phoenix.
Voyager Academy (12-3) made it to the 1A East semifinals and Rosewood (11-2) won the Carolina 1A Conference.
NCISAA: Cary Academy (23-1) has won three straight N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A championships.
Durham Academy (20-4), which reached the 3A semifinals, returns three of its top four, all juniors: James Shaheen, Priyan Desilva, and Kenan Ulku-Steiner.
Oakwood School (12-2) was runner-up in 1A and Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill (19-6) was second in 2A.