Hilton Head Prep’s ace showed up for Friday afternoon’s SCISA Class AAA state boys tennis championship match, but so did Porter-Gaud’s Payne Hoy, Brant Fenno, Foster Moe, Connor Grady and Cross Tolliver.
And Porter-Gaud’s depth won the battle and a second straight state title with a closer-than-expected 5-4 win over Hilton Head Prep (10-3) at Charleston Tennis Center as the Cyclones completed a perfect 15-0 season.
Grady hammered back-to-back big first serves and Hoy put away returns by Prep’s Colton Lavery and Amit Kohli with smashes at the net to give the Porter-Gaud seniors a 6-4, 6-3 victory at No. 2 doubles in the last match left on the court to wrap up the Cyclones’ 14th state title in the past 19 years.
“I expected it to be close, but not this close,” Tom Higgins said about his seventh state title in his 11 seasons as the Cyclones’ coach. “We had a real shot to be up 4-2 in singles (Grady dropped a close third-set tiebreaker at No. 4 singles), but their guys were tough.”
With much of the focus on whether Hilton Head Prep No. 1 Andrew Schafer would return from playing in a professional tournament in Florida in time for the midday match, the lower part of the Cyclones’ lineup stood up to the task as Hoy, Fenno and Moe yielded a total of seven games at Nos. 3, 5 and 6 singles as the teams headed into doubles deadlocked at 3-3.
Freshman Tolliver then joined the Hoy, Grady and Moe ranks in the last two spots in the doubles lineup to lift the Cyclones to another state title.
Moe, a junior, teamed up with Tolliver for a 6-1, 6-2 win at No. 3 doubles to set the stage for Hoy and Grady to wrap up the title at No. 2 doubles. Hoy and Grady overcame strong winds to rally from a 3-2 deficit to win four straight games to close out the match.
“I was just trying to make the shots in the wind ... just trying to make contact,” Hoy said about his last two winners. “This is really special since I’m a senior and I’ve been on the team with some of these guys five years.”
Hoy proclaimed the Cyclones as the best team in the state ... “if not the nation.”
The victory marked the third state title for Hoy, and Nos. 1 Thomas Spratt and 2 Seth Pinosky.
“Connor and Payne got it done for us,” Spratt said. “We were confident that they could do it.”
It wasn’t a good day to be playing Nos. 1 or 2 singles or No. 1 doubles for the Cyclones. Spratt put up a good fight in singles against University of South Carolina-bound Schafer, who didn’t return from Florida until nearly midnight the night before, but the Hilton Head senior prevailed, 6-3, 7-6 (3).
Outstanding Hilton Head junior Jared Woodson scored a 6-2, 6-1 win over Pinosky at No. 2 singles.
Schafer and Woodson then teamed up for a 6-3, 6-3 win over the Spratt/Pinosky doubles team.
It was a tough loss for a Hilton Head team that went unbeaten against all other opponents, but suffered two 5-4 setbacks and a 6-3 loss to their Region III rivals.
PORTER-GAUD 5, HILTON HEAD PREP 4
Singles: Andrew Schafer (HHP) def. Thomas Spratt, 6-3, 7-6 (3); Jared Woodson (HHP) def. Seth Pinosky, 6-2, 6-1; Payne Hoy (PG) def. Colton Lavery, 6-1, 6-1; Amit Kohli (HHP) def. Connor Grady, 6-2, 5-7, 10-7; Brant Fenno (PG) def. Matt Kandel, 6-0, 6-2; Foster Moe (PG) def. Angelo Carrabba, 6-1, 6-2.
Doubles: Schafer/Woodson (HHP) def. Spratt/Pinosky, 6-3, 6-3; Hoy/Grady (PG) def. Lavery/Kohli, 6-4, 6-3; Moe/Cross Tolliver (PG) def. Jack Kelly/Carrabba, 6-1, 6-2.