CARY — Sometimes there is more to gain from a lopsided team tennis match than the final score suggests.
Athens Drive learned such a lesson despite an 8-1 loss to Panther Creek in a SWAC match on Thursday at the Annie Jones Park.
Panther Creek breezed through three easy doubles wins to open the competition, but the Jaguars pushed the Catamounts in singles with two of the six matches decided by tiebreakers and two more lengthy competitive battles.
No one would have been more surprised to hear the score was one-sided than the recreation players waiting to use the Annie Jones courts that have been designated as Panther Creek’s home while mobile classrooms are parked on the Catamounts’ campus courts this school year. The Annie Jones courts are off-limits until all the high school matches are finished.
Athens Drive’s No. 1 singles Jack Lawson defeated Panther Creek’s Henrik Lindvall and won 4-6, 6-3 (10-5) in a 95-minute match that ended at 6:05 pm.
“We want to make sure we give it our all,” said Lawson, a senior. “It would be easy to get lazy against a top team, but you have to give it 100 percent. The best way to improve is to play people better than yourself.”
Panther Creek’s No. 4 singles Praneet Mocherla defeated Declan Huffman 6-2, 3-6 (10-8) in a 112-minute match that finally cleared the courts for recreation play at 6:17 pm.
The other two competitive matches were Panther Creek’s No. 3 singles Ty Giggey as he defeated Mark Zaccardelli 6-2, 7-6 (7-2), and Panther Creek No. 2 singles Matt Fahys as he beat Andreas Combos 6-4, 6-3.
“Even though we know they’ll be tough for us to beat as a team, we try to be competitive as we can in our matches,” Combos said. “You have to act like you think you can win. Playing the best competition makes you better.”
Athens Drive remained winless at 0-5 in conference play with a rugged start to the schedule that has included losses to Green Hope, Middle Creek, Apex and Holly Springs before facing Panther Creek.
“You hope that they are motivated when they play a top team,” said Athens Drive coach Gene Thomas. “As long as they play hard, that’s all you can ask.”
Panther Creek remained unbeaten in its quest to challenge SWAC favorite Green Hope. The two played last Friday.
“They’re a tough team,” Panther Creek coach Nathaniel Blalock said of the Jaguars. “We haven’t been on the court for practice because of the weather, so we’re not in a good rhythm now.”
Panther Creek’s other two wins at singles came from Alex Zietlow at No. 5 and Jimmy Press at No. 6.
In doubles, the Catamounts’ Lindvall and Fahys combined for an 8-1 win, Giggey and Mocherla won 8-0 and Zietlow and Andre Gross won 8-4.