By RYAN HERMAN
Lincolnton High’s boys tennis season began with a gigantic question mark.
Now the only question is how far can the Wolves go in the postseason.
After losing half of its top six seeds before the season began in late February, Lincolnton regrouped to finish third in the Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference, earn a wildcard berth into the NCHSAA state 2A dual-team playoffs, and send three to this weekend’s 2A West regionals at Gardner-Webb.
The Wolves (5-3) were supposed to travel to Monroe to take on Central Academy (22-3) on Tuesday to open the state playoffs, but the match was rescheduled for Thursday.
No worries, though. They’re used to battling chaos.
Before its season began Lincolnton lost its No. 3 singles player, who transferred to Hickory, and its fourth and fifth seeds decided not to play “at the last minute,” coach Dustin Weaver said.
The Wolves, who were the only county team to qualify for the dual-team playoffs, were left with only two players who had starting experience. So it was up to the rest of the team to step up, and they did.
“This isn’t the best team we’ve ever had, but it is the proudest I’ve been as a coach to see a team that looked at the beginning of the season to have nothing turn into one of the best teams in the region,” Weaver said. “It all starts with the work ethic and practice time and commitment that these guys have shown, even through their busy schedules.”
Lincolnton knocked off Bunker Hill, West Caldwell, East Lincoln, West Lincoln and Maiden in conference play, and dropped a “tough” 5-4 match to second-place Bandys for the league’s second automatic playoff berth, Weaver said. Newton-Conover won the conference title.
Leading the way has been Ethan Miller and Andrew Cromer, Weaver said. Miller finished second in the conference in singles, with his only loss coming against Newton-Conover’s Ryan Reed, who went undefeated and won the SD-7 title.
Miller, a senior who has a career 73-23 record, will take part in the regionals, which begin Friday at Gardner-Webb. He’ll be joined by the doubles team of Cromer and Matthew Bergstedt, both of which had never played competitive tennis until high school, Weaver said.
But before that happens, the Wolves must face Central Academy.
The Cougars won the Rocky River 2A Athletic Conference, but what they’ve done isn’t what Lincolnton is focused on.
The Wolves are only concerned about themselves, and that’s why they’re in the postseason.
“We were excited at the opportunity to fight through adversity and make the playoffs for the third time in the past four years,” Weaver said. “We aren’t even looking at our opponent, who we know by their record is extremely tough. We have three seniors in the starting lineup –– Ethan Miller, Matthew Bergstedt and Ezequiel Oruez –– who are all deserving of and are ready to enjoy the moment.”