CARY — The Green Hope boys’ tennis team won in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs 5-1 against East Chapel Hill.
The Falcons (18-1) claimed the 5-1 win in singles against the visiting Wildcats (14-5).
“We won our first set in all six matches today, and that is something to be proud of. More often than not, if you can win the first set, psychologically, it will put you ahead for the rest of the match,” said Green Hope coach Kevin Taylor.
Sophomore Louis Rico got things rolling for the Falcons, easily winning the first singles match of the day with a score of 6-0, 6-2.
“I served very well, and I stayed mentally strong, but all around I can still improve because I know I’m not unbeatable,” said Rico.
Senior Matt Hammond earned another victory for Green Hope, 6-2, 6-3.
The Falcons dominated the first two matches, but things changed when Thomas Wang took the court for East Chapel Hill. Although he lost the first set 7-5, Wang came back strong, winning the second 6-2 and forcing Michael Neighbors into a tiebreaker.
“You can’t underestimate people who are smaller than you,” said Neighbors. “Winning a set doesn’t mean you’re going to win, you have to close it out.”
After long minutes of tough rallies by both players, Wang prevailed in the tiebreaker, 10-6.
Green Hope senior Kelly Patch and sophomore Ashwyn Iyer also recorded victories with scores of 6-3, 6-4 and 6-3, 7-5, respectively.
With the Falcons leading 4-1, both teams anxiously watched Kyle Burns and Connor Lutz battle to determine if doubles would be played.
Burns, a Green Hope senior, won the first set 6-2 but lost the first game of the second set before building a 5-1 lead. Lutz responded but could not stop the quickness of Burns, who took the match 6-2, sealing the win for the Falcons.
Green Hope advances to the quarterfinals of the 4A state playoffs, where Monday it will host Millbrook, ranked No. 4 in the state.
Catamounts defeated: The state’s No. 1-ranked team came to Panther Creek and left with a 6-0 victory. Wakefield swept singles, ending Panther Creek’s season at 16-4 overall.
Gibbons rolls: Cardinal Gibbons, which won the past two state 3A boys’ tennis titles, remained undefeated this season as it breezed past Northern Guilford 6-0 in the second round of the dual-team tournament Tuesday.
Gibbons won each of the singles matches in straight sets, dropping only seven games in six singles matches. “We played really well,” said Cardinal Gibbons coach Andrew Tuttle. “We had a little rain interruption, but the guys came back and finished strong.”
The Crusaders (23-0) are led by junior Robert Kelly and sophomore Matt Goulash, both unbeaten in singles this year.
Kelly won the regional last weekend and will play singles in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A championship this weekend. Matt Galush also is unbeaten in singles and teamed with Noah Constantine to win the regional doubles title.
The Crusaders will play Monday at Cameron Union Pines (17-0), a 9-0 winner Tuesday against Washington.
Staff Writer Tim Stevens contributed to this report.