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Sports: WHS wins a point as protest changes tennis seeding

By Roger Greene
Coastal Observer

The gamesmanship between the Waccamaw and Bishop England tennis teams began one day earlier than expected. BE was slated to host today’s Lower State final, but a ruling issued Wednesday by the South Carolina High School League has resulted in the Warriors having home court advantage for the championship match.

Waccamaw filed a protest with the league based on inconsistencies with BE’s lineup that have been recorded throughout the course of the season. The grounds for the protest were that the Bishops moved better players lower in their singles lineup to create mismatches that would be to their advantage in the best-of-seven match format.

“The High School League has ruled that we will be the No. 1 seed and will host the Lower State championship,” WHS principal David Hammel said.

Wednesday’s actions further illustrate the growing testiness in the series. Waccamaw defeated BE 4-3 in the Lower State semi-finals last year and in the aftermath faced questions from Bishops coach Allen Moore about whether its lineup was within the framework of the rules.

At one time, Bishop England represented a major stumbling block for Waccamaw, but the Warriors have dominated the on-court action for much of the past decade. Waccamaw has won nine consecutive Lower State titles and captured three of the last five state championships.

While Wednesday’s ruling will resonate with some, the attention of the players most likely will remain on the match. Despite some of the theatrics that have gone along with it, the rivalry is one they continue to enjoy.

“I’m sure there will be a great crowd,” said Waccamaw No. 1 seed Harrison Richmond. “It’s a big match, and that is what makes it fun. It should be a great environment.”

A top-ranked junior player and a University of Virginia signee, Richmond brings a definite presence to the court. The seniors impact is measured not only in his results – he is undefeated in his prep career – but also by the effect his abilities have on teammates.

Richmond wasted little time with Academic Magnet’s Nick Butler on Tuesday, scoring a quick and decisive 6-0, 6-0 win that set the table for Waccamaw’s 6-0 victory.

Tuesday “was my last home match,” Richmond said. “I was thinking about that during the day, it was kind of bittersweet. We’ve had some great years since I started and I’ve enjoyed being a part of the team. Being a senior, I’d like to see us finish on top.”

If Tuesday’s scores are any indication, it would seem Richmond’s teammates feel the same way. The Warriors didn’t lose a set, getting additional singles wins from Paul Hendrix, Matt Fisher, Robert Jones and Jaz Greene. The No. 2 doubles result was much the same with Alex Czechner and Joey Hewes dispatching Blake Steen and Bradford Game, 6-1, 6-0.

A win today will have the Warriors playing Saturday at noon at the Cacye Tennis and Fitness Center outside Columbia. Christ Church is the top seed from the Upstate.

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