Pack tennis finds its stride, keeps undefeated streak alive

Published 9:15 pm Tuesday, March 17, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS TOP HEAVY: Senior Connor Wilkins and junior Holt McKeithan have yet to drop a match this season, in singles or as doubles partners.

TOP HEAVY: Senior Connor Wilkins and junior Holt McKeithan have yet to drop a match this season, in singles or as doubles partners.


On a sweltering day in early April, the Pam Pack tennis team’s nine-match win streak, one spurred by a relaxed conference slate, came to an end at the hands of J.H. Rose, a deep 4-A roster full of talent, one that lost just a single individual match that afternoon.

Wilkins was absent from the lineup, pitting Holt McKeithan up against the Rampants’ No. 1, undefeated senior James Reed, who knocked off McKeithan, 6-1, 6-3.

But on Monday, the 2015 season now two weeks in, Washington got its revenge with a down-to-the-wire, 6-3 win over J.H. Rose to not relinquish, but preserve their early season win streak. And with a commanding 9-0-match victory over Beddingfield on Tuesday, the Pam Pack now sits at a perfect 5-0 entering the heart of conference play.

“Rose is an extremely tough team and after all we got beat pretty bad last year,” said Wilkins. “With only losing Luke Ainsworth, our lone senior last year, we weren’t losing a lot of people in the top six, so we were able to bounce back and step it up against the bigger schools.”

The win against Rose marks the second 4-A team Washington has knocked off this season, the other being another Greenville squad, D.H. Conley, on March 4.

Against the Rampants, Wilkins, Holt McKeithan and Mac Skillen coasted through their matches in the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 5 slots, respectively, but Zack Pagnani, Eric Crozier and Ben McKeithan fell to their opponents, as the match would come down to doubles, an area the Pam Pack was inconsistent in last season.

After being down early, Wilkins and Pagnani battled back and came through with the win and the brother duo of Holt and Ben McKeithan cruised to an 8-3 pro-set victory.

“(Wilkins and Pagnani) were down for most of the match, so it was really fun to watch them win that one,” Whitley said. “Holt and Ben were actually the first two to finish. I really like Holt and Ben playing together. I guess because they’re brothers they move well together and understand how the other one plays.”

Skillen and Crozier also pulled out a come-from-behind victory to close out the day for the Pam Pack.

After a strenuous and lengthy evening on Monday, it took just 90 minutes for Washington to finish off Beddingfield on Tuesday, picking up its third shutout in as many conference matches.

Against Bruins’ No. 1 Oscar James, Wilkins took his time and despite a few misfires, he picked up the 8-0 win.

Holt McKeithan limited mistakes and placed his first serves in an 8-0 win over Enrique Ortiz-Flores and Pagnani took his time with Valentine Millan, also winning 8-0.

Ben McKeithan picked up a shutout win in the No. 5 slot and Dylan Singleton, at No. 6, also won his match 8-0. Beddingfield’s Joshua Speight won the only game of the day in an 8-1 loss to Mac Skillen.

Sticking to the script, Washington swept the doubles matches and earned its fifth-straight win.

“I personally think we’re a little better than we were last year,” Wilkins said. “I think our lineup is really deep. I think we have a really good chance of making it out of the second round of the playoffs this year, based on all the other teams in the state with what they lost. With only losing the one senior, our lineup has depth and we’re experienced.”

Washington will host North Johnston on Tuesday before heading to Greenville to face Oakwood on Wednesday. The Pam Pack will have an out-of-conference rematch against the Rampants on April 15.