HENDERSONVILLE – The Wilson Central tennis team had an impressive showing in the District 9 – Large Division individual tournament last Wednesday, as a trio of Wildcats advanced to the Region 5 tournament.
Wilson Central junior, Michael Mercante, took home his second-consecutive singles crown with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Station Camp freshman Lance Watson.
Mercante, who was named the district’s Most Valuable Player, narrowly defeated Watson 7-5, 4-6, 10-8 the last time the two squared off three weeks ago.
This time, however, Mercante aggressively controlled play from the baseline as he worked Watson from side to side throughout the match.
Juniors Jacey Staggs and Savannah Westbrook claimed a hard fought semifinal against Hendersonville’s Emory Creager and Katie Lee 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-2 to advance to the district finals. However, the finals did not work out in favor of the Lady Wildcats.
Staggs and Westbrook fell to Hendersonville’s Caroline Miller and Audrey Spurlock 1-6, 6-2, 7-6(4) to finish runners up.
Mercante dominated play throughout the week by dropping only seven games en route to the title.
In the semifinals, Mercante eased to a 6-0, 6-1 win over Hendersonville’s Stephen Pate before dispatching Watson.
The junior raced out to the 5-2 lead in the first set against Watson, and after being down 2-1 in the second set, Mercante claimed five of the last six games for the win.
“I think the experience of being here before really helped me today,” Mercante, who, last year, won the regional tournament and advanced to the state semifinals, said.
“I went into the match just playing aggressive because that’s what I needed to do against Lance and I think my experience allowed me to be comfortable in doing that.”
After a sluggish semifinal, Staggs and Westbrook played inspired tennis to grab the opening set of the finals, but Miller (who paired with Grace Phillips last year to advance to the state semifinals in doubles) and Spurlock managed to claw back by taking the first three games of the second set as the Hendersonville duo comfortably held the second set.
Staggs and Westbrook fell behind early, trailing 4-2 and down 15-40, but managed to claw back to take the game and to tie the match up at four all.
Down 5-6 late, a Westbrook service hold forced a tiebreaker for the third set, and the Lady Wildcats took the opening three points of the breaker.
However, two missed shots from the Wilson Central duo brought new life to Hendersonville, and Miller and Spurlock took seven of the last eight points to close the match.
“It was a good day for our program overall in that we have multiple people heading to the regional tournament,” Wilson Central coach Ryan Jent said.
“Michael played a great match and he looks to be in his best form of the season, and I think Jacey and Savannah realize that they can beat anyone in our region as long as they believe in themselves.”
Wilson Central senior Andrew Denning opened his district tournament by upending Greenbrier’s Griffin Maddox 6-3, 6-4 in the second round, but fell to Lebanon’s Tyler Garvin 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the next round.
Wilson Central junior Abby Moser dropped Portland’s Bethanie Bergman 6-0, 6-0 in the first round, but fell to the fifth seed Riquera Smith of Mt. Juliet 6-7(3), 6-1, 6-2.
Junior Sydney Miller and freshman Ashlynn Staggs opened the tournament with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Mt. Juliet’s Lydia Brandes and Cecilia Demoski, but fell to Miller and Spurlock 6-3, 6-1 in the second round.
Senior Braden Hammer and freshman AJ Hughes took down Portland’s Jacob Tonkin and Ian Wells 6-1, 6-0 in the opening round before falling to top seeded Chase Dorris and Camden Foster of Beech 6-1, 6-2.
Freshmen Caleb Brown and Tobey Simpson fell 6-0, 6-1 to White House’s Hayden Evans and Jacob Jenkins in the opening round.
Wilson Central sophomore Kiersten Moss dropped her opening round match to Lebanon’s Nicole Bashour 6-4, 6-3.
The regional tournament will begin May 14 in Clarksville.