by Chris Hunt
On March 29, the Hopewell boys tennis team defeated I-MECK 4A conference opponent Mooresville, 9-0, to improve its record to an impressive 12-2, 4-0 in the league. But it was the Titans’ match against Lake Norman High on March 24 that might’ve been the most telling victory of the season.
Lake Norman was considered one of Hopewell’s top adversaries for the conference crown. But the Titans’ surprisingly lopsided 8-1 victory hinted that this might be one of the most focused teams Hopewell coach Craig Smith has had. The Titans took early leads against the Wildcats in singles play and never let up. They’re now eyeing their second consecutive conference crown.
“We stressed how important it was to be extremely consistent in the beginning of singles, allowing our opponent opportunities to make errors,” said Smith. “We were able to get nice leads at No. 2, 3, 4 and 6 singles. That allowed us to play more aggressive as the matches went on.”
Unlike most his teammates, Hopewell No. 5 seed Danny Wintermeier had to battle for a victory against the Wildcats. Down 6-3 in the first-set tiebreaker, Wintermeier rallied to win the next five points to take the first set, and the momentum carried over to the second set for a 7-6 (6), 6-2 decision in favor of Hopewell.
“Danny’s tiebreaker against Lake Norman was a crucial point in not only his match, but the overall status of the match,” said Smith. “He cruised in the second set.”
Wintermeier captured his 11th victory of the season against Mooresville. It was the seventh time this spring he’s won by 6-0, 6-0 scores.
Along with a 6-3 victory over Hough on March 22, the Titans’ win over the Wildcats satisfied the first of three team goals for the season.
“Our top three goals this year are to beat Lake Norman, beat Hough and win the conference title,” said Smith. “We accomplished No. 1 and No. 2, and as long as we continue to play at the same level, we have a great opportunity to achieve all three goals. The most important thing is to continue improving every day.”
Hopewell has matches against Mallard Creek, Vance and North Mecklenburg remaining on the conference slate. Each team has at least two conference losses.