ROCKINGHAM — For the third straight season, Richmond Senior will be participating in the 4A boys dual team tennis playoffs.
This time, the team is hoping for a better result.
In 2012, Green Hope knocked out Richmond in the first round 5-1. Last year, Richmond was blanked at home by Hoggard 6-0.
And this year, Richmond will hit the road to face East Chapel Hill (19-1), the top team out of the PAC-6, 4 p.m. today.
“It's a tough draw,” senior Brandon Ingram said. “We are going to give it our best. We aren't going up there expecting to lose. We will have to try to out-will them…run down every ball. We know they will place the ball better than we can, we will have to out-will them to win.”
The Wildcats is expected to be one of the deepest teams the Raiders have faced this season. East Chapel Hill, ranked No. 2 in the N.C. High School Tennis Coaches Association's 4A rankings, has been defeated once this year, a 7-2 loss to No. 1 Wakefield.
Max Smith captured the PAC-6 singles championship last week, defeating teammate Robert Bond in the finals. Both Smith and Bond will advance to the 4A regional singles this weekend in Raleigh.
In the doubles, East Chapel Hill will send two teams to the 4A Midwest regional — Josh George-Ondrej Drobney and Connor Lutz-Jack Devonport.
Richmond, on the other hand, captured the Southeastern Conference singles and doubles championships. Junior Colt Auman snagged the singles crown, while Andrew Balzer and Ingram combined to win the doubles title.
“I will play the way I usually play,” Balzer said. “It's going to be tough, but I'm going to give it my all.”
Balzer added the key to trying to pull off the upset against East Chapel Hill is stealing the matches in the bottom half of the singles.
“If our five and six can win that will be huge,” said Balzer, a junior. “It's going to be a tough match. It means we have to play a little harder and we have to be smart with our shots.”
Auman agrees with his teammates it will be difficult to knock off the Wildcats. He believes East Chapel Hill has a clear advantage in a number of its players participate in the sport all year long, unlike the majority of Richmond's roster.
East Chapel Hill's freshmen doubles team of Priyan DeSilva and Kevin Huang, that went 18-1 as a team this spring, won the USTA's N.C. Junior Spring Tournament last weekend in Greensboro.
“If you want to get good, you have to play year around,” Auman said.
Sports editor Shawn Stinson may be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.