Last season Kevin Huang didn’t have to play in the PAC-6 boys tennis tournament to get the conference’s top seed for the upcoming regional but on Wednesday the East Chapel Hill senor wrapped up his regular season with three wins to earn the top honor again.
In previous seasons when the PAC-6 had five slots for the regionals, the top singles player and doubles team were given an automatic berths and didn’t have to play in the conference tournament. They joined the four semifinalists in advancing to the regionals. This season, the PAC-6 will send only four each in singles and doubles to the regionals so everyone had to play and earn a regional berth.
Huang defeated Zack Kim of Riverside in the finals 6-3, 6-1 to wrap up a long, hot day of competition at East Chapel Hill Hill.
Huang was able to sit and watch his teammates a year ago. This time, he was in the middle of the competition and that’s where he said he rather be.
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He opened play with an 6-0, 6-1 win over Riverside’s Tien Ngyuen and then followed it up with a 6-3, 6-1 semifinal victory over Jordan’s Aiden O’Connell.
“I worked hard for it all year and when you put in the work and you get what you want, it feels good,” Huang said. “Last year I got a bye and I didn’t play and got to see my teammates play. This year I got to see them play and I could play, which was nice as a senior.”
Kim reached the finals by topping Riverside’s Silas Nuernberger 6-1, 6-0 and then by beating East Chapel Hill’s Ben McLean 6-0, 6-3 in the semifinals. But Kim’s battle with Huang didn’t turn out like he wanted.
“Kevin is a really good player,” Kim said. “I wish I was fresher when I went out because it was a hot day. But it was a good tournament.”
McLean and O’Connell will join Huang and Kim in the regionals.
In the doubles competition, Jordan’s Zach Tapper and Davis Cromer were the top qualifiers, going through two duos from Cardinal Gibbons.
They defeated Caleb Suh and Peter Glenn in the finals 6-4, 6-4 after a slow start.
But it was their semifinal victory over Kyler Zadell and Brody Chapman which produced the day’s highest drama. They split sets 6-3, 5-7 after seemingly having control of the match in the second set. That sent them into a deciding tiebreaker that took 26 points to settle as Tapper and Cromer prevailed 14-12.
“It was good to win but we had a really long semifinals match,” Cromer said. “We had a slow start in the finals but we turned it around. It feels awesome and we’ve worked hard for it all year.”
Suh and Glenn reached the finals by defeating East Chapel Hill’s Gramme Zimmerman and Rahul Singh 6-2, 6-4.
In all, East Chapel Hill had four regional qualifiers with Huang and McLean making it singles with Zimmerman and Singh earning a doubles spot.
Cardinal Gibbons will send two doubles teams to regionals as Suh and Glenn took one spot and Zadell and Chapman earned the other.
Jordan first-year coach Steve Rothchild was ecstatic with the outcome for Tapper and Cromer in doubles and Aiden O’Connell making it in singles.
“It was good to see,” Rothchild said. “It feels good to have a doubles team win, especially as a rookie coach.”
East Chapel Hill coach Nicky Walker said having one less qualifier made the tournament more important this year. He also called the conference more balanced than it has been recently based on the outcome of the tournament.
“I’m pleased with it,” Walker said. “The strength of the conference this year was in doubles. It’s been a strong year, stronger than usual.”