CARY — New champions were crowned at the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference boys tennis championships, hosted by the Cary Tennis Center.
Middle Creek senior Justin Panepinto took home the singles title, making him the second straight Mustang to do so, with a grueling 7-6, 6-7, 10-8 victory against Green Hope sophomore George Edwards.
“I can’t even put it into words,” Panepinto said. “It was just up-and-down the whole time.”
In doubles, Panther Creek senior Henrik Lindvall and junior Matt Fahys prevailed against Green Hope junior Louis Rico and sophomore Matt Whitney, 6-4, 7-5.
“We’ve got to just keep doing what we’re doing,” Fahys said. “And if we do that, we’ll do well.”
The top six in the conference earned all-conference honors and advanced to next weekend’s Mideast regional.
Senior makes it a Mustangs repeat: Panepinto and Edwards battled point for point in a wild match that featured a little bit of everything – changing winds, a between-the-legs return shot by Panepinto and comebacks by each.
Panepinto, who has signed with Washington (Md.) College up 3-0 in the second set on Edwards, but Edwards rallied.
Then Panepinto (18-2 this season) began to get leg cramps.
“He is about the last person I want to play when cramping, because he doesn’t miss. I knew I was going to be out there a long time,” Panepinto said. “I was just trying to play through it and not think about it.”
Edwards took the second set against the conference player of the year and was up 6-2 in the third-set tiebreaker. But Panepinto gutted out the final points.
“It just feels so great to finally pull it out there at the end,” Panepinto said. “I didn’t come all this way for nothing, and I did not want to disappoint any of my teammates. They’ve supported me for four straight years, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Panepinto kept the conference title with the Mustangs for a second straight year. Sophomore Nick Stachowiak won last year’s title but missed this season with a broken bone in his back.
SWAC semifinalists, who automatically qualified for the Mideast regional, were Athens Drive senior Jack Lawson and Apex senior Carter Bradshaw.
Qualifying on the backdraw were Holly Springs sophomore Grant Miller (defeated Green Hope’s Ashwyn Iyer, 3-6, 6-3, 10-5) and Holly Springs sophomore Chris Gold (defeated Cary’s Michael Herburger, 3-6, 6-3, 10-5).
PC pair takes doubles: Panther Creek’s Lindvall is more of a talker than the mild-mannered Fahys. But there is constant non-verbal communication when they’re on the court – they slap fives after every point.
The encouragement came in handy in the biggest match of their high school careers. The pair lost just twice in conference play.
“We have some nice on-court chemistry, which I think led us to this victory,” Lindvall said. “He’s a really quiet guy on the court, but when he wants to win – he really wants to win, and that fires me up.”
It was unusual to not have Green Hope take an individual plaque home, but the 13-time conference team champs were young this year and hope this prepares them for the coming weeks of postseason play.
“My guys battled through what was relatively new situations for them,” Green Hope coach Kevin Taylor said. “We didn’t have any winners, but I think this was good for our players.”
Also advancing to regionals were Middle Creek senior Edward McRowan and freshman Grant McGrew, as well as fellow semifinalists Green Hope sophomore Eshaan Javalkar and freshman Rohit Ghotkar.
Qualifying for next weekend’s regionals on the backdraw were Panther Creek juniors Ty Giggey and Anuraag Argawal and Apex seniors Cole Bowser and Kyle Klinek.
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps