As first-year Porter-Gaud boys tennis coach Jonathan Barth said Wednesday afternoon, "It was a tough day at the office."
Things just didn't fall into place for the two-time defending SCISA Class AAA state champion Cyclones on their home courts. Hilton Head Christian (5-6) won the key matchups and scored a 5-4 victory over Porter-Gaud (10-2) in the state semifinals, ending the Cyclones' string of five straight appearances in the title match.
The match had three key events that all went against the Cyclones: freshman Malone Vingi couldn't close on a 7-3 third-set match tiebreaker advantage at No. 4 singles as the two teams split the six singles; eighth-grader Brant Fenno suffered his first singles loss of the season, and to a player the Porter-Gaud No. 2 had beaten in the regular season; and senior Foster Moe, the two-time SCISA Open doubles champion (with Cross Tolliver), was unavailable, leaving the Cyclones undermanned in doubles.
Hilton Head Christian had all-everything senior Hampton Drake on its side, which was probably the biggest advantage for the third-seeded visitors. Clemson-bound Drake claimed a 6-1, 6-1 win over Porter-Gaud senior Seth Pinosky at No. 1 singles, and then served the decisive game to finish off a 6-4, 6-4 victory at No. 1 doubles over Fenno and sophomore Tolliver that clinched the Eagles' second trip to the state final in three years.
What Drake didn't take care of, brothers Ben and Alex Likens did as the trio won all three singles points and was in on the two doubles points.
Still up 8-6 after a couple of errors, the big-hitting Vingi double-faulted on three of his last four service points, including at match point in a 4-6, 6-2, 12-10 loss to backboard-like eighth-grader Alex Likens. Senior Ben Likens outplayed Fenno for a 6-2, 6-4 victory in a battle of left-handers, as well as teamed with Drake at No. 1 doubles.
Tolliver won at No. 3 singles for Porter-Gaud, and eighth-grader Connor Craigie and freshman Jack Kammerer won at Nos. 5 and 6 singles. But without Moe available, Hilton Head Christian was too strong in doubles for the Cyclones.
HILTON HEAD CHRISTIAN 5,
Singles: Hampton Drake (HHC) def. Seth Pinosky, 6-1, 6-1; Ben Likens (HHC) def. Brant Fenno, 6-2, 6-4; Cross Tolliver (PG) def. Cameron Clark, 7-6, 6-0; Alex Likens (HHC) def. Malone Vingi, 4-6, 6-2, 12-10; Connor Craigie (PG) def. John Zeigler, 2-6, 6-2, 10-7; Jack Kammerer (PG) def. Walker Wood, 6-1, 6-2.
Doubles: Drake/B. Likens (HHC) def. Fenno/Tolliver, 6-4, 6-4; Pinosky/Vingi (PG) def. Clark/Zeigler, 6-2, 6-3; Wood/A. Likens (HHC) def. Craigie/Kammerer, 6-2, 6-2.
Class A-AA boys
Palmetto Christian Academy (5-5) and Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach were rained out Wednesday afternoon at Family Circle Tennis Center in a SCISA Class A-AA boys tennis state semifinal match. The match has been rescheduled for Friday at 1:30 p.m. at Family Circle Tennis Center.