SMITH WINS PAC-6
East Chapel Hill tennis coach Lindsey Linker watched two of her Wildcats battle for the singles championship during the 4-A PAC-6 Tournament at the courts that bear her hall-of-fame name.
Max Smith beat Robert Bond 6-2, 7-5 to claim the PAC-6 singles title at ECH on Wednesday.
In doubles, Northern’s David Senerchia and Dillon Leovic took care of Jordan’s Charles Herst and Patrick Taylor 7-5, 6-1 to emerge as conference champs.
The PAC-6 gets to send the league’s four top singles players and its four best doubles teams to regional competition at Greensboro’s Page High School on May 2-3, so the aforementioned players will be joined by: Riverside’s Josh Evans and Jordan’s Colin Eimers in singles; ECH’s Josh George and Ondrej Drobny and teammates Connor Lutz and Jack Devonport will represent the PAC-6 in doubles.
Senerchia and Leovic were the top-seeded doubles team in the PAC-6 Tournament, but Northern coach William Schrader said he’s not sure what to expect from the pairs that will be in Greensboro.
What Schrader said he is certain of is Northern’s toughness, because his guys this season are 9-0 in tiebreakers that decided matches. The Knights are clutch performers, Schrader said.
Jordan coach Erik Cain said he’d fly with his Falcons anytime, including next week’s regionals.
“I’ll take my chances with my guys any day of the week and twice on Sunday,” Cain said.
Linker, a member of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame, said there definitely was something special about Bond and Smith being the last two standing in PAC-6 Tournament singles.
Better than that would be one of those Wildcats playing for the state championship a few weeks from now.
Smith plays in the No. 1 spot for ECH and on paper has the best shot at bringing the state singles title to Chapel Hill. He’d have to advance from regionals to be in contention and then would likely have to go through Wakefield’s Bo Boyden, who both Cain and Linker said is the real deal.
Smith has done business with Boyden and come up short.
“Max had a good match with him,” Linker said. “The score was not indicative.”
Smith could beat Boyden if he plays with passion and invests in every point, Linker said.
Three of ECH’s top six players did not compete in the PAC-6 Tournament, yet Linker still placed six players in the regionals. That’s how deep the Wildcats are, and the reason they're ranked No. 1 among North Carolina 4-A programs.
Depth is not a luxury afforded to Hillside coach Ike Barnes, but Hornets freshman Bryan Hager got an 8-6 win over Northern’s Jamal Njai in the first round of the conference tourney.
As far as Barnes could tell, that was Hillside’s first win in the PAC-6 Tournament in nearly two decades.
“The program has been decimated,” Barnes said.
Hillside is known for its football and basketball programs. But once upon a time, Hillside’s tennis teams had it going on, and Barnes said he’s trying to restore that.
During the early 1950s through the early 1970s, Hillside won multiple state championships under coach Carl “Bear” Easterling, Barnes said.
Hillside had players like Joe Williams, who played a young Arthur Ashe 10 times and won half of those matches, Barnes said.
It’s often said that former NBA point guard John Lucas was better at tennis than he was at basketball. Barnes said he and Lucas were tennis teammates at Hillside.
But when Easterling stopped coaching, Hillside’s tennis program began to fade.
“It was painful,” Barnes said.
Barnes said he’s trying get his players to understand that it means something to wear a Hillside tennis uniform.
“They don’t truly understand what tennis can do for them and understand the legacy of where they come from,” Barnes said.
Practically speaking, the odds are better for a young man at Hillside to become a professional tennis player than make it to the National Football League, Barnes said.
Hager is a freshman at Clement Early College High School that meets at N.C. Central University. Clement doesn’t offer sports, so that’s why Hager plays for Hillside.
Hillside’s tennis team will be even better next season, Hager said.
“We’re going to be in it,” Hager said.
PAC-6 4-A CHAMPIONSHIP
at East Chapel Hill High School
First Round — Alex Lee (Jordan) d. Matthew Miller (Hillside) 8-1; Bryan Hager (Hillside) d. Jamal Njai (Northern) 8-6.
Quarterfinals — Max Smith (East Chapel Hill) d. Alex Lee (Jordan) 8-0; Josh Evans (Riverside) d. Chris Givens (Northern) 8-1; Robert Bond (East Chapel Hill) d. David Thacker (Riverside) 8-1; Colin Eimers (Jordan) d. Bryan Hager (Hillside) 8-1.
Semifinals — Max Smith (East Chapel Hill) d. Josh Evans (Riverside) 8-1; Robert Bond (East Chapel Hill) d. Colin Eimers (Jordan) 8-5.
Championship — Max Smith (East Chapel Hill) d. Robert Bond (East Chapel Hill) 6-2, 7-5.
First Round — Hunter Phelps/Jacob Oakley (Roxboro Person) d. Qasim Rashada/Jaren Shelton (Hillside) 8-1; Jonathan Carver/Matthew Mayer (Roxboro Person) d. Rob Sears/George Cooke (Riverside) 8-5; Josh George/Ondrej Drobny (East Chapel Hill) d. Cameron Pyle/Nick Grande (Jordan) 8-2; Erich Choudhury/Brennan Pitts (Riverside) d. Jordan Halliday/Sam Harding (Northern) 8-4; Jalen Carver/Cord Roberts (Roxboro Person) d. David Meeks/Marcus Loftin (Hillside) 8-4.
Quarterfinals — David Senerchia/Dillon Leovic (Northern) d. Hunter Phelps/Jacob Oakley (Roxboro Person) 8-2; Josh George/Ondrej Drobny (East Chapel Hill) d. Jonathan Carver/Matthew Mayer (Roxboro Person) 8-0; Connor Lutz/Jack Devonport (East Chapel Hill) d. Erich Choudhury/Brennan Pitts (Riverside) 8-0; Charles Herst/Patrick Taylor (Jordan) d. Jalen Carver/Cord Roberts (Roxboro Person) 8-1.
Semifinals — David Senerchia/Dillon Leovic (Northern) d. Josh George/Ondrej Drobny (East Chapel Hill) 8-3; Charles Herst/Patrick Taylor (Jordan) d. Connor Lutz/Jack Devonport (East Chapel Hill) 9-8 (4).
Championship — David Senerchia/Dillon Leovic (Northern) d. Charles Herst/Patrick Taylor (Jordan) 7-5, 6-1.
NOTE — All semifinalists, both singles and doubles, qualify to participate in the NCHSAA individual regional tournament May 2-3 at Page High School in Greensboro.