After two years in a row as runner-up, No. 1 seed Oakwood School of Greenville claimed the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 1A boys tennis state championship by defeating No. 2 American Hebrew Academy from Greensboro in a battle of the Eagles 5-0 at Campbell University Saturday.
After Oakwood (16-3) swept through the doubles competition, wins from juniors No. 1 Jeevan Tewari and No. 2 Branden Sears were all the Eagles in white needed to clinch a win over Amercian Hebrew (10-4), the Eagles in red.
Oakwood coach Andrew Bures cited team play as the biggest factor for his team.
“It was a team effort,” Bures said. “My No. 1 player had had a bit of a shoulder issue and my No. 4 player had mono, and they both stuck with the team and played in the finals. The most important thing about these state tournament titles is to capitalize on the doubles. Once we won the three doubles, we were pretty much in the driver’s seat.”
Tewari credited the guidance of Bures and the team’s efforts in practice for the championship season.
“It’s good,” Tewari said. “I’m happy for our team and happy for our fans. We worked hard in all of that time practicing. This is just a manifestation of good coaching and a lot of time spent on the court.”
Sears was happy to be a champion for the second time, the first of which he noted was alongside his older brother, Jackson.
“It feels great,” Sears said. “This is our second one. The first one was with my brother three years ago. We had a couple of run-ins with Statesville (Christian) in the state championship and lost. It feels good to finally beat them (in the second round) and then come into the state championship and win.”
Bures was pleased with the way his team came prepared to play.
“They came ready to play,” Bures said. “We were runner-up the last two years and it’s satisfying this year to win it again. We had won it three years ago, we were runner-up two years in a row to Statesville (Christian). This year was an exclamation point. We won the state and I’m proud of my players, and it was a total team effort from bottom to top.”
Tewari and Sears beat Enrique Ninio and Josh Dweck 8-1, Harrison Martin and Lowie Price beat Evan Sobotev and Jose Mizarhi 8-3, and Alex Adler and Muhammed Ali beat Elias Jober and Oliver Russbaum 8-1 in doubles competition to set the tone for Oakwood.
“Coach Andrew is always putting emphasis on doubles,” Tewari said. “It’s first in states, so we’ve got to go out there and go strong in doubles and hope to get up early and keep that momentum in singles.”
Sears added: “It takes a lot of pressure off of our singles matches, knowing you’ve just got to get two ... Me and Jeevan were pretty confident coming in and we knew we could get the two wins.”
In the match between No. 1 seeds, Tewari topped Ninio by set scores of 6-2 and 6-1 to leave Oakwood needing just one more to clinch the championship.
Sears took a win by scores of 6-0 and 6-1 over Dweck in the No. 2 match to seal the deal for Oakwood.
With five of the top six returning next season, Oakwood stands a strong chance of a repeat performance.
“Everybody returning except one guy (Price) in the top six,” Bures said. “Next year we have five coming back. We need to fill the No. 6 spot. The bottom of the lineup is very important in these matchups, because sometimes you can have a good one or two and nothing below them. But luckily, we’re stacked bottom to top. Next year at No. 6, we’ll need to fill it in, but I feel that we’ll have five good players and we just have to work on the No. 6 position for next year.”