Fewer obstacles blocking Cyclones’ path to SCISA boys state tennis title

Porter-Gaud coach Jonathan Barth

The road looks a little smoother for Porter-Gaud in this year’s SCISA boys tennis Class AAA state playoffs.

Hilton Head Prep and Hilton Head Christian, the 2014 state champion and runner-up, are competing in the Class AA state playoffs this time.

That should be very good news for Porter-Gaud, not only because Hilton Head Christian snapped the Cyclones’ streak of five state years as a finalist with a win in last year’s state semifinals, but also because Hilton Head Prep has handed Porter-Gaud its only two losses this spring.

So, with the Hilton Head Island worries out of the way, the Cyclones (9-2) have a good shot at winning their third state title in four years.

“Our division (Class AAA) is certainly different with the two Hilton Head teams gone, especially Hilton Head Prep, which beat us twice this year,” second-year Porter-Gaud coach Jonathan Barth said.

“We haven’t played any of the teams that are in our draw, except Pinewood Prep.” Porter-Gaud scored a pair of one-sided wins over Pinewood Prep during the regular season.

Upper bracket top seed Porter-Gaud has received a first-round bye in the state playoffs that start Monday. The Cyclones are scheduled for a home semifinal on Wednesday against the winner of Monday’s Ben Lippen/Cardinal Newman match.

Sumter’s Wilson Hall is the top seed in the lower bracket and will oppose Monday’s Pinewood Prep/Hammond winner in Wednesday’s other semifinal. The final is scheduled for Friday.

“I don’t know anything about Ben Lippen or Cardinal Newman. I know Wilson Hall has a strong team with some good players,” Barth said. “We just have to be prepared, and expect to play some strong competition.”

Junior Cross Tolliver and freshman Brant Fenno have been the leaders for the Cyclones in the top two singles positions and at No. 1 doubles.

The SCHSL Class AA regular-season showdown between Bishop England and Waccamaw is set for Thursday at Snee Farm. The winner will land the top seeding and important host role if the two rivals meet once again in the Lower State final on May 13.