Sports: Warriors advance to state tennis final
By Roger Greene
Over the last decade, there has been little doubt in the Lower State that Waccamaw High is the team to beat in the Class AA ranks. Nothing changed at Wachesaw Plantation on Thursday.
Dashing Bishop England’s hopes of deciding the outcome of the match in doubles play, Waccamaw proved its point by capturing four of five singles matches in the best-of-seven format. The 4-1 victory sends the Warriors to the state finals for the 10th consecutive year.
“I can’t say enough about the improvement we’ve made, both since last year and the start of the season,” Waccamaw coach James Brown said. “Everybody has stepped it up. We always want to be in position to play for the state championship. It’s our goal ever year and we’ll have that opportunity once again.”
Waccamaw will face defending champion Christ Church for the title at noon on Saturday at the Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center just outside of Columbia.
“We’ve given ourselves a chance,” said Waccamaw’s third seed Matt Fisher. “It’s a good feeling to have.”
“They are a very similar team to us,” Brown said. “It will be close match, it always is when we play them. It will come down to who can stay aggressive, and who can keep from making mistakes when things get tight.”
Staying aggressive was not a problem for the Warriors against BE. Top seeds Harrison Richmond and Paul Hendrix dominated their competition, winning 6-0, 6-0 over Steven Weaver and Tristen Fletcher respectively.
Fisher and fifth seed Jaz Greene quickly followed suit, with wins that allowed the Warriors to claim the Lower State crown. Fisher rallied after losing the first set 4-6 to defeat Noah Stiepeo 6-2 and 10-5 in the tiebreaker. Greene downed Roe Hicks 7-5, 4-6, 10-5.
“I had too many double faults in the first game,” Fisher said. “That was a huge issue. Once I started getting my serve in, I got more confident. The serve is the key to my game.”
“With the injuries he’s had in past years, Matt hasn’t had many singles matches in the playoffs,” Brown said. “He settled down after the first set and played well. When he’s serving well, he’s very dangerous.”
After dropping his second set, Greene reestablished himself in the tiebreaker, building a 6-0 advantage and going on to score the decisive win in the match.
Hicks “is a good player,” Greene said. “It was a close match. I wasn’t going to get overconfident. I knew he was capable of coming back.”
“It was great to see Jaz play the way he did,” Brown said. “He was aggressive the whole match. He was playing to win.”
BE was originally scheduled to host the match, but a Waccamaw protest filed with the S.C. High School league on Wednesday resulted in the Warriors being awarded home-court advantage. The protest resulted from inconsistencies in the Bishops’ lineup that were recorded throughout the year, the grounds being better players were moved lower in the singles ranks to create mismatches that would work to the Bishops’ advantage.
Though the match drew a larger and more vocal crowd than normal, there didn’t appear to be any lingering effects from the protest. Waccamaw’s win was decisive enough to virtually make Wednesday’s gamesmanship a mute point.
“Bishop England is one of those teams you’re always going to give a little extra against,” Fisher said. “It’s always a big match when we play them. It’s a good rivalry.”