By MARK PARKER Record Sports Correspondent
The last hurdle to reach Burlington will be at Hickory City Park Wednesday afternoon, as Hickory High hosts South Point in the 3A West Region final of the North Carolina High School Athletic dual-team tennis tournament. The winner advances to Saturday’s state final against the winner of the 3A East Region final between Terry Sanford and Carrboro. The finals for all four classifications will be held at the Burlington Tennis Center.
No. 4 South Point (14-0) at No. 3 Hickory (13-0), Hickory City Park
About Hickory (55-24 NCHSAA playoffs, state titles, 2004, 2006):
Playoff results: 4/27 vs. No. 14 Fred T. Foard (9-0); 5/3 vs. No. 11 Crest (7-2); 5/9 at No. 2 Lake Norman Charter (6-3)
Expected Singles Lineup (records in dual matches only): No. 1 Griffin Lovern, Jr. (11-0); No. 2 Costen Holtzman, Sr. (11-0); No. 3 Lewis Tate (7-0); No. 4 Clint Powers, So. (11-0); No. 5. Maddox McCleur, Sr. (8-3); No. 6 Parker Yount Jr. (8-3).
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Expected Doubles: No. 1 Lovern / Holtzman (10-0, 3A state doubles runner-up); No. 2 Tate / Powers (8-0); No. 3 TBA.
After ending the unbeaten season of Lake Norman Charter on Monday, the Red Tornadoes look to do the same to South Point. This is the first regional final for Hickory since a loss in this round to Charlotte Catholic in 2008. A win will place the Red Tornadoes in their first state final since winning it all in 2006.
In Monday’s quarterfinal, Lovern and Holtzman each defeated state tournament players Sean Huynh and Abriham Parimi, both in straight sets. Holtzman was especially impressive in his win over Parimi, shutting out the 3A Midwest champion. Holtzman likely will take on 3A West champion Shiv Patel in No. 2 singles.
Regardless of who has played, Hickory has not lost a match in the top three singles slots and is unbeaten in the No. 1 doubles with one loss in No. 2 doubles.
In the last postseason meeting between the two, Hickory defeated South Point 6-1 in the first round back in 2016.
About South Point (9-12 NCHSAA playoffs)
Expected Singles Lineup (Record in dual matches only through 4/28): No. 1 James Dover, Fr. (12-0); No. 2 Shiv Patel, Fr. (12-0); No. 3 Zachary Cunningham, Sr. (12-0); No. 4 Dylan Nicks, Sr. (12-0); No. 5 Brandon Cunningham, Sr. (9-0); No. 6 Trey Baker, Sr. (12-0)
Expected Doubles: No. 1 Z. Cunningham / Dover (8-0); No. 2 Baker / Shiv (7-1); No. 3 B. Cunningham / Nicks (7-0).
Playoff results: 4/27 vs. No. 13 Rockingham (9-0); 5/3 vs. No. 5 Atkins (9-0); 5/9 at No. 1 Central Davidson (6-0).
Between 2007 – the last bracket made available by the NCHSAA – and 2018, South Point had one victory in tennis duals. The Red Raiders are now a win from their first dual tennis final.
A loss in No. 2 doubles to Crest is the only thing that stands between South Point and a perfect mark in matches, winning 119 of 120. They are led by a pair of freshmen at the top of the sheet. James Dover and Shiv Patel each advanced to last week’s 3A state individual tournament with Patel winning the 3A West championship over his classmate. While Patel lost in the first round last week, Dover made it to the state semifinals before getting shut out in a straight-set match to eventual state champion Drew Hedgecoe of Terry Sanford.
It is worth noting that prior to the playoffs, South Point defeated only teams to reach the playoffs. However, one of those was an 8-1 defeat of Crest, which Hickory defeated 7-2 last week.
Next up: No. 9 Terry Sanford (12-3) or No. 7 Carrboro (17-2)