Wildcats sweep PAC-6 tennis titles
Mentally spent and physically sapped on one of the center courts in Wildcat Tennis Stadium, East Chapel Hill junior Max Smith gutted out a a 6-2, 5-7, 10-7 win over Northern’s David Senerchia for the PAC-6 singles championship Wednesday.
Home court was sweet for the Wildcats, who also scratched out a doubles title when Jack Devonport and Josh George beat Jordan’s Sam Bacon and Patrick Taylor 6-1, 6-7, 10-8.
Jordan and ECH, the top squads in the PAC-6 during the regular season, will compete in the dual-team playoffs that begin Tuesday.
The top four singles players and doubles teams in the PAC-6 tournament advanced to regional competition that starts May 3 at UNC’s Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center.
ECH’s Connor Lutz and Jordan’s Colin Eimers, along with Smith and Senerchia, will represent the PAC-6 in singles.
Jordan’s Charles Herst and Cameron Pyle and ECH’s Thomas Wang and Ondrey Drobny, along with the Bacon-Taylor and Devonport-George teams, will represent the PAC-6 in doubles.
Smith said the pressure of exams had his mind drained before he even got on the court, where the conditions were windy. The thought of dealing with Senerchia’s grinding style in the final didn’t help matters, he said.
Senerchia doesn’t have an overwhelming serve, and he’s not going to overpower opponents with his strokes, Northern coach William Schrader said.
“But he hits every ball and outlasts his opponents,” Schrader said. “He’s a very mental player. He’s a cerebral guy in general, and the most effective part of his game is just being patient.”
Senerchia was giving Smith all he could handle. During a break in the action, Smith left the court to get a quick snack.
“I’ve got 14,000 bagels over there,” ECH coach Lindsey Linker said.
But Smith wouldn’t grab one because none of them were poppy-seed. Linker made Smith take a bite of a blueberry bagel, and she later gave him some trail mix.
“I don’t know how much that did. I just ate the raisins,” Smith said after securing the title that improved his regional seeding.
Winning the PAC-6 tournament did nothing for Smith’s national ranking.
“It’s just personal,” Smith said. “This is just for pride, playing for your school.”
Pride was on vivid display when Smith battled Jordan junior Colin Eimers in the semifinals.
Eimers was up 5-2 in the first set before losing steam, and then he twisted his right ankle. He walked off the court to get it wrapped and returned, running but still hobbling, to resume the match.
Jordan coach Erik Cain told Eimers, who already had qualified for regionals, that it was OK for him to call it a day.
But there was something personal going on for Eimers, who battled Smith when they were in middle school.
“I played him once eighth-grade year, and it didn’t go well at all,” Eimers said. “So a little bit of redemption. I’ve always wanted to play him since then.”
Eimers’ heart was saying yes, but that right ankle was screaming no way.
“I can’t run like I was able to earlier; I can’t get to balls,” Eimers said. “(Smith’s) a smart player, and he took advantage of it. He was bringing me out wide, making me run a lot.”
Cain said he could have forced Eimers to retire earlier but allowed his player to work it out.
Eimers said he decided to call it quits in order to give himself a better shot at being available for Jordan’s playoff match on Tuesday.
“It’s more of, like, a team thing,” Eimers said. “I understand it was a big match for me, but having me play in states and regionals is more important.”
At East Chapel Hill
Max Smith (ECH) d. Zachary Ballisen (R) 6-1, 6-0; Colin Eimers (J) d. Devin Lauva (N) 6-0, 6-0; Connor Lutz (ECH) d. Kevin Ostrowski (J) 6-0, 6-0; David Senerchia (N) d. Rob Sears (R) 6-0, 6-0.
Max Smith (ECH) d. Colin Eimers (J) 7-6 (7-1), 4-1, retired; David Senerchia (N) d. Connor Lutz (ECH) 6-0, 6-4.
Max Smith (ECH) d. David Senerchia (N) 6-2, 5-7, 10-7.
Regional qualifiers—Max Smith, David Senerchia, Connor Lutz, Colin Eimers.
Ben Evans/Josh Evans (R) d. Hunter Moss/Hunter Phelps (P) 8-0; Charles Herst/Cameron Pyle (J) d. John Ornitto/Brandon Chambers (P) 8-3; Dillon Leovic/Ryan Arundale(N) d. Miles Williams/Matt Miller (Hillside) 8-0; Chris Givens/Jamal Njai (N) d. George Cooke/Will Hausen (R) 8-5; Cody Carver/Matthew Mayer(Person) d. Phillip Williams/Eduardo Perez(Hillside) 8-0.
Jack Devonport/Josh George (ECH) d. Evans/Evans (R) 6-0, 6-1; Herst/Pyle (J) d. Leovic/Arundale (N) 6-3, 7-5; Thomas Wang/Ondrey Drobny (ECH) d. Givens/Njai (N) 6-1, 6-0; Sam Bacon/Patrick Taylor (J) d. Carver/Mayer (P) 6-0, 6-0.
Devonport/George (ECH) d. Herst/Pyle (J) 6-2, 6-4; Bacon/Taylor (J) d. Wang/Drobny (ECH) 6-3, 6-3.
Devonport/George (ECH) d. Bacon/Taylor (J) 6-1, 6-7, 10-8.
Regional qualifiers—Devonport/George (ECH), Bacon/Taylor (J), Wang/Drobny (ECH), Herst/Pyle (J).