CLOVER — The youth-oriented Clover Blue Eagle tennis team lost in the second round of the playoffs to J. L. Mann last week.
“It was a tough assignment against a team that is the reigning 4A state champions and hasn’t lost match in three years,” said Clover head tennis coach Phil Wingard.
The Blue Eagles staged a come-from-behind win on April 30 over visiting Boiling Springs, prevailing 4-3 in a first-round playoff match.
No. 1 singles player Andres Leon won easily 0 and 1, with No. 2 singles Justin White prevailing 2 and 1.
“No. 4 singles player Rob Long played a great match against an equally tough opponent and came out on top 7-5, 6-4,” said Wingard.
The Blue Eagles lost at No. 3 and 5 singles in tough matches and at No. 2 doubles. Holden McGill and Thomas Summers lost in three sets, setting the stage for the deciding match at No. 1 doubles.
The Blue Eagle tandem of Leon and White fell behind early and lost the first set.
But after a strategy adjustment, the Leon/White twosome came roaring back to win the second set and force a deciding third set.
Continuing solid net and baseline play, the Blue Eagles finished off Boiling Springs, winning the third set and advancing to the next round of the playoffs.
Though winning decisively, Leon credited his opponent for a strong effort.
“My opponent’s play didn’t reflect the final score,” said Leon. “There were a lot of 40-30 and deuces.”
Leon, who uses plenty of top spin on most of his shots, said he is more confident with his baseline strokes. “Maintaining the No. 1 singles spot requires a certain mindset,” he said. “It takes commitment and consistency.”
White said it took him a while to get his game going in the Boiling Springs match.
“I was a little nervous at first, then settled down and played my game,” said White. “I like to move my opponent around with forehand strokes.
“Playing with confidence and maintaining focus is a real key.”
Clover’s No. 3 singles player, Patrick Smith, lost 3-6, 4-6 in a competitive match.
“My opponent was tall with a long arm span,” noted Smith. “He reached some shots I thought were well-placed. It was a closely-contested match.”
Despite the loss, Smith said there were positive signs. “My service was good and my backhand was better than usual,” he said. “I will work to be more aggressive in the future.”