DENVER – The tennis teams at East Lincoln and Lincoln Charter will enter the postseason riding high after unbeaten runs through their conferences.
The Eagles of Lincoln Charter haven’t lost since last year’s state championship contest against Raleigh Charter, winning all nine matches this season and posting a 6-0 mark in the Southern Piedmont 1A. Lincoln Charter is led by senior Parker Powell, who won a state championship in doubles last year, and junior Alex Orr, each of whom is 9-0 in singles play.
“We lost four of our top seven players from last year, and last year was definitely the school’s most successful team ever,” Lincoln Charter head coach Scott Fowler said. “This year I think the guys have exceeded my expectations a little bit. We had three guys coming back as starters from last year’s team and they’ve all been really exceptional as the stalwarts of this team.”
Sophomore Cutter Law, whose brother, Jackson, played alongside Powell on last year’s state championship doubles team, is the third returning starter. Law has lost just once this season after going 16-2 in singles play as a freshman, dropping a three-set heartbreaker against Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy March 5.
“Cutter was our number six last year and now he’s our number two, and he’s been really good,” Fowler said.
Fowler said he didn’t notice any extra motivation from his team after coming so close to a state title last year, but he does believe that run has given his players a confidence boost.
“Everything was so new to us last year on our run through the playoffs and I think that finally caught up to us in the state championship,” Fowler said. “A lot of the guys weren’t used to the traveling and overnight trips, so it was a new experience. I think we’ll be able to put all of that behind us this time around since our top guys have been through it before.”
In addition to Powell, Law and Orr, the Eagles rely on the Shelton twins, Ben and Sam, who have combined for a 16-1 singles record as freshmen. Fowler’s son, Salem, has also been impressive, posting a 7-0 singles record in his senior season. Fowler believes that depth will be the key to another run to the state championship.
“What a good team has going for it is usually really good doubles play because in a matchup of good teams it’s usually 3-3 or 4-2 after singles play and doubles is where the match is decided,” Fowler said. “In addition to doubles, our four, five and six spots, which is kind of the bottom half of our lineup, those singles spots will be very important.”
Mustangs net South Fork title
East Lincoln has enjoyed similar success this season, winning its past eight matches after suffering a three-match skid early in the season that included a 7-2 defeat against Lincoln Charter. Like the Eagles, the Mustangs were perfect against their conference opponents, finishing 7-0 to claim a second consecutive South Fork 2A conference championship.
“Having won the conference last year with five of the same six kids, the expectations were to compete for another conference title,” East Lincoln coach Rollin Mackel said. “We started out the season with a win, but then we had three really tough matches and lost all three while missing one of our top six players in each of the last two. Looking back, that pushed some of our lower ranked players to have to play up and they did really well. I think that experience prepped them for playing at a high level in conference play.”
East Lincoln is led by seniors Joel Reiter and Nick Colannino, who have combined for a 15-7 record in singles play. Sophomore Connor Hall and junior Cole Wharton have also been strong, combining for a 17-4 record in matches played in the three through six spots in the lineup.
“One of the strengths of this team is that we’re fairly strong at the bottom portion of the group as well,” Mackel said. “A lot of times getting wins from your four, five and six players in the lineup is key to winning a match, and hopefully that strength can push us through a few rounds into the state playoffs.”