There was a Hoosiers feeling for Raleigh Charter as its attempted to win its second consecutive 1A boys dual team tennis state championship.
In its four previous trips to the 1A state final, they played in the sunny climate of the Burlington Tennis Center, where temperatures bordered in the 90s. After a week’s worth of rain created major headaches across the North Carolina High School Athletic Association spring sports landscape, the Phoenix found itself playing indoors at UNC’s Cone-Kenfield Tennis Facility.
“It was different,” said Phoenix coach Ryan Griffin. “All these championship banners hanging around. It was like “Hoosiers” walking into the big stadium. A lot of our guys love UNC tennis, so we came out a little jittery. Some of shots were a little long early.”
Brandon Wacaser teamed with Jake Satisky to defeat Pine Lake Preps’ Brian Forte and Sheppard Fowler 10-7 in No. 3 doubles to clinch the Phoenix’s 2nd straight state championship 5-3 over the Pride. It was a rematch of last year’s 1A final, which Raleigh Charter captured 5-2.
Wacaser, a senior who was named MVP of the tournament, also defeated Fowler in singles 6-3, 7-6 (7-3).
While Raleigh Charter secured its title in the penultimate doubles match, the 2A championship came down to the very end between the North Carolina School of Science and Math and Brevard.
The Unicorns’ top doubles team of Depei Yu and Daniel Lee won the last four games to defeat Brevard’s duo of Joseph Schrader and Charles Kang to win the state championship 5-4. Lee’s winner of a Schrader’s serve clinched the title and led to a small mosh pit breaking out amongst the Unicorns on court 1.
NCSSM (12-0) won its second state championship in boys tennis in its sixth trip to the final. The Blue Devils (16-2) finished runner-up for the third straight year.
Yu was named Most Valuable Player.
Raleigh Charter captured four of the six singles matches, including the most exciting in the sixth singles match where Joseph Fisher defeated Brian Forte in a 10-point tiebreaker 10-6 after splitting the two sets 3-6, 7-5.
Fisher won the match despite cramping up during the tiebreaker. He was scheduled to compete in doubles with Chinna Baskaran, but was replaced by freshman Arya Battula.
The Phoenix jumped out to a 2-0 lead behind singles victories from Baskaran (defeated Alex Wrench 6-2, 6-1) and Jake Satisky (6-3, 6-0 over Blake Jansen). The Pride’s Max Vicario, who finished runner-up in last weekend’s 1-A state championship match against Elikn’s Ryan Macy, earned the Pride’s first match with a 6-2, 6-4 victory against Harrsion Tseng.
Going into doubles ahead 4-2 seemed the model scenario for the Phoenix. Last weekend’s 1-A doubles state championship was an all-Raleigh Charter match, where Tseng and Revant Birla defeated teammates Wacaser and Arjun Juneja.
Yet Pine Lake’s Wrench and Vicario defeated the state champions defeated 7-1 when the match ended via injury default.
While Baskaran and Battula battled Crossin and Jansen on the neighboring court, Wacaser and Satisky procured the Phoenix’s 2nd state championship.
Wacaser knew that Baskaran’s injury would put increased weight on his team’s shoulders.
“I’m beyond happy right now,” said Wacaser. “I knew this would be the most important match. You go into it clear minded. I wasn’t trying not to think about all that’s on the line. I was facing the audience. Trying to shut down my family watching on wasn’t easy.”
The Unicorns’ victory came after an upset over Carrboro three weeks ago, ending the Jaguars’ run of four consecutive trips to the 2A state final.
NCSSM won the first three singles matches. Vishal Naik defeated Aidan Spradlin 6-2, 6-2; Ashvin Warrier won over Cullen Duval 6-3, 6-3; and Tejas Dalvi finished Charles Kang 6-1, 6-4. However, the Blue Devils earned the final three singles matches, including a straight sets victory by Schrader, the 2A state individual champion.
With the overall match even 3-3 going into doubles, Yu and Lee gradually realized their fate would determine whether the Unicorns would capture its first state championship since 2008. The Unicorns’ No. 3 doubles team of Warrier/Naik won easily, as did Brevard’s combination of Liam Baer and Cameron Wilson on the adjacent court.
“When courts 2 and 3 emptied, we knew what was on the line,” said Yu. “Nobody told us to stop playing, so that’s when we knew it would all come down to us. To break Joseph’s serve in the last game was remarkable.”
It’s the third straight year a Triangle team has won the 2A state championship after Carrboro earned consecutive titles in 2014 and 2015.