For the second straight year, Panther Creek experienced heartbreak in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A dual team boys tennis championships, losing to Myers Park 5-4 Saturday at the Burlington Tennis Center.
“I’m just disappointed,” Panther Creek boys tennis coach Greg Ray said.
After four singles matches, the score was tied at 2-all. Panther Creek’s Trice Pickens defeated Mark Dillon 6-1, 6-2, while Rishi Kakkar defeated Charlie Reiney 6-0, 6-4. Myers Park, a high school in Charlotte, picked up victories from Charlie Fox, who defeated Owen Shifflett 6-4, 6-0, and Sam Dean, who defeated Nadir Bajwa 6-0, 6-1.
Momentum swung in favor of Panther Creek in the final two singles matches. Alex Kim beat Flynn Stover 6-3, 6-3, and Siddhant Pal came back to defeat Christopher Williams 4-6, 6-0, (17-15).
Ray was confident heading into the three doubles matches, needing only one victory. However, it wasn’t meant to be for Panther Creek.
Reiney and Fox picked up the first victory for Myers Park defeating Shifflett and Akash Nijhawan 10-4. Dillon and Dean kept the momentum going for their club, narrowly edging out Pickens and Pal, who battled through dizziness and heat exhaustion, to win 11-9.
It came down to Stover and Williams for Myers Park and Kim and Kakkar for Panther Creek. The match ended up going to a tiebreaker, where Stover and Williams outlasted their opponents for a 7-3 victory, completing the comeback and giving Myers Park its first dual team title.
“We have strong doubles teams,” Ray said. “Just today, the cards fell on the other side. I give props to them, they played an amazing match. We were leading until the last couple of games and the final match goes into a tiebreak. They hit their peak when we didn’t.”
Ray was not coaching the Panther Creek team that fell 5-2 to Page last season. That club was headed by Nathaniel Blalock. However, he knows just how hungry his club was for this title.
“They wanted it bad. The whole losing last year drove our team this entire season. We lost to Green Hope twice (in the regular season), and we used that hunger to beat them in the playoffs,” Ray said. “They were No. 1 overall (seed), so that gave us a lot of confidence.”
Ray said his players weren’t overconfident, and in fact, used their No. 9 seeding as further motivation to prove they belonged.
“We recognized that we didn’t get an upper seed, so we did have an underdog mindset,” Ray said. “But we knew we would win. We proved we could hang with them in singles ... I guess our peak was just in singles rather than doubles.”