Published: Jul 12, 2006 12:48 PM
Modified: Jul 12, 2006 12:47 PM
CHAPEL HILL The mood in the final huddle for Apex High's boys tennis team was oddly content following its 9-0 loss at East Chapel Hill High in the second round of the NCHSAA 4-A Dual Team Tournament on Tuesday.
While the Cougars' loss to East Chapel Hill ended a 14-6 season, the team had reason to be happy about their season.
"The way that we competed from the first match of the season to here," Apex coach Ryan Phelps said, "our goal was to get back to the dual team playoffs and we achieved that. I'm just proud of what they accomplished."
While the final score doesn't reflect a hard-fought match, Apex pushed the favored Wildcats throughout and made their coach proud.
"I think we exceeded our expectations and I just couldn't be happier about the way we played today," Phelps said. "To have three matches go three sets and another match was four and four. I couldn't have asked anything more about how they played or how hard they competed."
Apex started out strong by taking the first set in three of six singles matches and narrowly missed taking a fourth. As the matches wore on, though, the Cougars' chances began to fade as the favored Wildcats battled back and regained control by winning all six second sets and eventually all six matches.
Apex's No. 1, senior David Wynne, lost a tough match to Jeff Archer 4-6, 6-2, 7-5. Archer, who is normally ECH's No. 2, filled in for the injured Mike Greenberg and pulled off a mild upset that set the tone for the Wildcats' victory.
"Some days you don't play the way you want to play," Wynne said. "I knew I had to play their number two player because Mike Greenberg was out. I didn't really try to think about it. I tried to play like I was playing the number one guy and go out and play my best game."
Despite the loss, finding positives was easy, especially given where Apex was three weeks ago. Heading into its regular-season finale against Cary High, Apex was sitting in third place in the Tri-Seven Conference and facing the prospect of missing the postseason for a second straight year.
In order to qualify this year, Apex had to avenge a March 21 loss to Cary and then win a tiebreaker match against the Imps three days later.
"We were definitely pumped up and ready to go," sophomore Viking Edeback said about the week leading up to the Cary rematch. "We definitely showed up to play and did well."
Apex beat Cary on April 28 to forge a tie, then beat the Imps again on May 1 to secure a postseason berth.
"Beating them [on the 28th] was a confidence booster," Wynne said. "We were really confident and felt good about the way that we were playing, and we just went in and played the way we usually play and things turned out well for us.
"It was pretty awesome. Last year was the only year that we hadn't qualified for dual teams [in my career], it was the only year we hadn't finished in the top two in conference."
Phelps stressed the contributions of four newcomers -- freshman Ryan Lewis, sophomore Will Manning and seniors Adam Barrett and T.J. Tunis -- in the team's return to the state playoffs.
"We had four new players that came in this year," Phelps said. "They really gave us the depth that we haven't had in previous years."
Looking forward, Apex will undergo a bit of an overhaul before next season with Edeback as the only returning starter. Lewis could potentially return to Apex next year pending possible school redistricting.
Even with the turnover Phelps believes that the program is headed back in the right direction and those who are returning have gained a lot from this playoff run.
"East is one of the best teams in the state," Phelps said. "[The returning kids] get to see what a great program is and how close we were in beating them. So I think that gives them a lot of confidence for next year."
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