Palmetto Christian Academy’s boys put together an amazing comeback Thursday afternoon in Orangeburg to cap the Eagles’ perch in SCISA Class A with a sixth state tennis title in seven years.
With the Eagles down 4-2 after singles, Palmetto Christian coach Dewey Caulder recognized that the only chance his team had of winning was to split his doubles teams to take advantage of the dominant play of sophomore Austin Heinz and senior Addison King. The Eagles (6-2) responded with a sweep of doubles and a 5-4 victory over defending state champion Aiken Prep’s Knights (6-1).
Aiken Prep had snapped Palmetto Christian’s string of five consecutive boys state titles and 11 overall state tennis titles by the girls and boys teams in last year’s state final. Palmetto Christian will move up to Class AA in the new school year.
“After singles, I told them (team members) that the only chance we had of winning was to split the doubles,” Caulder said.
And Nos. 1 and 2 stars Heinz and King followed up dominant wins in singles with easy victories in the top two doubles matches. “When Austin and Trey (freshman No. 5 Trey Goolsby) won easily (6-1, 6-0 against Aiken’s Nos. 1 and 2 players) at No. 1 doubles, it gave confidence to the whole team,” Caulder said. “They said, ‘We can do it.’ ”
King and freshman No. 4 Chase Shinakonis then came through at No. 2 doubles against Aiken’s Nos. 3 and 4 players to level the overall match at 4-4.
That left seniors (No. 3) Billy Perkins and (No. 6) Micah Vasko still on the court locked in a tight second set in No. 3 doubles. Vasko, the Eagles’ scrappy and athletic region basketball player of the year, held service at 40-30 to close out a 6-1, 7-5 win over Aiken’s No. 6 Jewel Fernando and doubles specialist Alex Steiner.
As it turned out, the win by Perkins and Vasko was the only one that Heinz and King didn’t claim. Heinz and King yielded a total of 12 games in their four total victories against Aiken Prep.
“This was a gratifying win,” Caulder said. “The senior membership stepped up . . . everyone stepped up.”
PALMETTO CHRISTIAN 5, AIKEN PREP 4
SINGLES: Austin Heinz (PCA) def. Alex Sklizovic, 6-3, 6-0; Addison King (PCA) def. Preston Tiffany, 6-0, 6-2; Jesse Morton (AP) def. Billy Perkins, 7-5, 6-4; Aaron Sklizovic (AP) def. Chase Shinakonis, 6-1, 6-3; Zack Harrington (AP) def. Trey Goolsby, 6-0, 6-2; Jewel Fernando (AP) def. Micah Vasko, 7-5, 6-1.
DOUBLES: Heinz/Goolsby (PCA) def. Alex Sklizovic/Tiffany, 6-1, 6-0; King/Shinakonis (PCA) def. Morton/Aaron Sklizovic, 6-3, 6-3; Perkins/Vasko (PCA) def. Fernando/Alex Steiner, 6-1, 7-5.
Reach James Beck at email@example.com. See his columns on pro tennis at ubitennis.com/english.