Raptors, Hawks highlight high school tennis playoffs

Hanahan High school freshman tennis player Chad Nash

Academic Magnet and Hanahan, two boys tennis teams not accustomed to unbeaten records and notoriety this time of year, have center stage as the state high school playoffs arrive this coming week.

Buoyed by local academies, primarily Family Circle Tennis Center’s MWTennis, the Raptors and Hawks are loaded with some of the best young talent in the state. It’s rather unique that they are in different SCHSL classifications and will not face each other this spring, and both now appear set to possibly run the table and bring home state titles.

Hanahan’s top four of freshman No. 1 Chad Nash, sophomore Kerim Hyatt and freshmen Mark Jones and Bradley Upshaw all train at MWTennis, along with three of Magnet’s top four, freshman No. 1 Jacob Jahn, sophomore Sam Kavarana and freshman No. 4 Vinod Pandey. The Raptors’ No. 3 player, sophomore Earl Navarro, trains at LTP Tennis.

Hanahan (11-0) could advance all the way through the Class AAA Lower State final without having to leave Collins Park by virtue of the Hawks’ sweep of 2014 state champion/2015 state runner-up Hilton Head High to capture the Region 8-AAA crown.

“If we get by the second round, we should make it to the Lower State finals. I haven’t had time to research every team though,” Hanahan coach Glenn Cobb said.

The Hawks will begin the playoffs on Tuesday at Collins Park against Region 5 fourth seed Aiken. The winner of that matchup will play either Manning or Region 7 runner-up Myrtle Beach in the second round on Thursday.

Academic Magnet (10-0), which beat out defending Class AA state champion Bishop England for the Region 6-AA crown by defeating the Bishops twice in the regular season, is scheduled to open the state playoffs on Thursday by entertaining Barnwell. A win there likely would send the Raptors on the road next Monday to take on perennial power Waccamaw.

Meanwhile, Southern No. 1 Jared Pratt-led Bishop England is always a threat, even though the Bishops as a No. 2 seed may not play a home match in the playoffs, starting with at trip to Woodland on Thursday. Pratt was away last Wednesday when the Raptors blanked the Bishops, 6-0.

The Class AAAA state playoffs also will begin on Tuesday. Both local region champions, Wando (10-6, 10-0) from 7-AAAA and Summerville (14-3, 8-0) from Region 8, will be at home as No. 1 seeds.

Summerville will entertain No. 4 seed Sumter on Tuesday, needing a win to advance to Thursday’s second round against the winner of Tuesday’s West Ashley at perennial power Lexington match.

“Playoffs get tough in the second round, but if we’re good enough to beat Lexington and advance, then West Florence (third round?) and Socastee or Aiken (Lower State final?) are comparable,” Summerville coach David Long said. “These are clearly the best five (AAAA) teams in the Lower State.”

Wando will meet Irmo (a fourth seed) in the first round and would also be favored to play at home on Thursday in the second round against Tuesday’s Ashley Ridge at Socastee winner. Another possible trip to powerhouse South Aiken, which plays host to Stratford on Tuesday, could loom for the Warriors in the third round. Wando lost at South Aiken in last year’s Lower State final.

James Island (10-5, 8-2) will take on River Bluff on Tuesday at the Trojans’ new courts on campus. The Trojans are led by sophomore Brendan Healey, who went 10-0 in region play at No. 1 singles.

SCISA defending Class AAA state champion Porter-Gaud has a bye on Monday and will face the winner of Monday’s Hammond School/Ben Lippen match on Wednesday in the state semifinals at the Cyclones’ home courts in West Ashley.

Pinewood Prep will travel to Cardinal Newman in Monday’s first round, with the winner advancing to Wednesday’s state semifinals against Wilson Hall, a 5-1 victim of the Cyclones in the 2015 title match.

The state final is scheduled for Friday in Sumter.

Reach James Beck at jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his latest columns on Grand Slam Tennis at www.ubitennis.net.