STANHOPE — Corinth Holders found itself with a tall order to fill Tuesday entering its second round NCHSAA 3A dual team boys tennis tournament match with Southern Nash.
Despite their efforts, the Pirates were unable to piecemeal the combination necessary to turn back the Big East champion Firebirds, falling 7-2.
The Pirates (10-3) found themselves behind the proverbial eight ball before the match even began.
That’s because not in the lineup for the Two Rivers Conference champion was its No. 1 singles player, William Xia. A three-time conference singles champion, Xia became ill with a stomach virus during the overnight hours Monday and Tuesday.
So the Pirates were forced to bump their remaining regular singles players up one spot in the lineup, as well as add a non-regular to field a six-man ladder. Additionally, Pirates coach Chris Davis revamped his entire doubles-teams pairings, since Xia played at No. 1 doubles with Cade Greer.
“I was hoping we would get a 3-3 split in singles,” Davis said. “Everyone had to step up and hit shots consistently. I think the pressure of having to step up kind of got to a couple of us.
“By having to step up into an higher spot on the ladder, the player feels he has to hit the ball a little more perfectly, and in trying to hit it more perfectly, you hit it worse.”
The adjusted ladder saw Southern Nash handle its opponents almost with relative ease, putting Corinth Holders in a hole it could not overcome.
Corey Ellington staked the Firebirds to a 1-0 lead with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Braxton Brewington at No. 3, and Jordan Decosse pushed the margin to 2-0 as he beat the Pirates’ Christian Green, 6-1, 6-0. That lead extended to 3-0 when Brian Ridgeway erased Cade Greer in the No. 1 flight for the Firebirds, 6-1, 6-1.
The Pirates broke through at No. 6 singles, as Zack Blinson (seeded 14th among Corinth Holders’ singles players), rolled to a 6-2, 6-1 triumph over Luke Bailey.
But the Firebirds responded, moving within a point of the team victory with a 6-2, 6-1 victory at No. 2 by Cody Thorne over Jake Altman. The Pirates needed a win at the fourth singles match to stay alive, and got that from Jamie Schap in a dominating, 6-2, 6-1 outcome.
The Pirates could not channel the momentum from the two late singles wins, however, dropping all three doubles matches to the Firebirds.
“I had to break up my doubles teams that have normally played together the whole year,” Davis said, “just so we could stay competitive down the entire line. In retrospect, maybe I did a bad job in splitting the wrong groups. Brewington and Green have been our most consistent as a team, and Jamie and Chad are gamers.”
Thorne and Decosse turned back Brewington and Green, 10-3 at No. 2 to clinch the meet for the Firebirds.
After that, the remaining matches were for pride and going through the motions, with Ridgeway and Bryant stopping Greer and Schap 10-7 at No. 1 and Ellington and Bailey defeating Altman and Blinson 10-6 at No. 3.