Pam Pack tennis falls to J.H. RosePublished 12:01pm Thursday, April 3, 2014
The Pam Pack’s nine-game win streak came to an end on Wednesday after the team traveled to Greenville and took on the toughest challenger they’ve faced all season, J.H. Rose.
Without the Pam Pack’s center court option, junior Connor Wilkins, the team had to face an intimidating Class 4-A lineup – one that almost tripled the size of Washington’s.
“The teams in our conference don’t play as well as these 4-A teams,” said head coach Miranda Whitley. “I think it’s good for them to have these matches towards the end of the season, so before they go into the conference tournament, regionals and potentially states, they get a chance to play against players of this caliber.”
Their opponent’s talent level aside, the Pam Pack had to cope with another natural element, one that Washington has to face this season – heat. With the mercury hovering around 86 degrees, the temperature reached the low- to mid-90s on the court.
With the absence of Wilkins, all eyes were on sophomore Holt McKeithan as he took on the Rampants’ undefeated talent, James Reed, who has dropped just one set all season. Reed hit an array of powerful groundstrokes that had the Pam Pack’s young No. 2 scrambling to recovering. After getting blown out in the first set, 6-1, McKeithan began to adjust with a collection of well-placed cross-court forehands.
In the end, Reed’s consistency and durability proved too much for McKeithan, who dropped the second set, 6-3, and the match. The loss moves the sophomore to a match record of 15-3.
Holt’s brother, freshman Ben McKeithan, undoubtedly had the best performance of the day for the Pack. Ben, matched up against Rose’s David Gay, tracked down almost every crosscourt shot that was hit, wearing out his opponent in the blistering heat. After being down a handful of games in the first set, Ben fought back, forcing long, grueling rallies and an eventually a tiebreaker, which the Pam Pack freshman won.
Gay came through and won the second set, and while the other Rampants players made quick work of their opponents, suddenly, the players’ and fans’ attention shifted towards Ben and Gay’s contest. The third set was a back-and-forth affair, but in the end, Ben came out on top with a 10-4 win.
“Both Ben and Holt are fighters,” Whitley said. “(Ben) was losing that first set, but came back and won it in a tiebreak. It was great for him, especially being a freshman.”
The win improves Ben’s record to 13-3 this season.
Unfortunately for the Pack, that arduous affair proved to be the only Washington win.
Senior Luke Ainsworth faced off against Sam Chen, one of the Rampants’ craftier and systematic players. Ainsworth couldn’t keep up and dropped the match, 6-1, 6-3. His record now stands at 12-6.
Sophomore Eric Crozier stood little chance against Rose’s 13-1 junior, Jack Cavanagh, who won the match 6-1, 6-2. Crozier moves to a record of 11-6 with the loss.
After being down early in the first set, freshman Zack Pagnani started to catch fire with a few timely shots against his opponent, Rose’s Tomas Vasquez. However, Vasquez powered his way through the final games and took the set, 5-7. Exhausted, Pagnani was overpowered in the second set and would lose, 6-1.
In doubles, Holt McKeithan and Ainsworth dropped their pro-set match, 8-3, whils Ben McKeithan and Weston Brown lost as well, 8-2.
Matched up against Chen and Gay, Crozier and Pagnani didn’t go down without putting up an impressive fight. Trading shot-for-shot, both sides battled as the sun set on the day. Finally, Chen broke through with a few powerful forehands that sealed the closely contested victory, 9-7.
“Their No. 1 player was out too,” Whitley said. “If their No. 1 player had been here and Connor had been here, I probably would have expected the same result just because of these guys not being able to practice for almost a whole month (due to the rain) and not being used to playing teams like this, but hopefully Connor will be here for the next match when they come to us. Hopefully, we’ll have a better result.”
With the loss, Washington moves to an overall record of 9-1. On their home court, the Pam Pack will rematch Rose Monday, April 14.