Undefeated Spring Valley needed about 30 minutes to dispatch visiting Northwestern from the Class 4A state boys tennis playoffs on Tuesday. The Vikings improved to 16-0 with a leisurely 6-0 win against the overmatched Trojans from Rock Hill.
But while the competition may have been lacking in the postseason opener, it was an all-business performance by Spring Valley.
“I don’t care who we’re playing, I want my guys to get ready, get focused, play their match, do their thing,” Vikings coach Matt Herms said.
“And they’ve been doing that all year. We know what our goal is, but we haven’t won anything yet.”
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Ashkon Babaee, Brent Lett, Hampton Drake, Kenan Sakarcan and Connor Burke produced easy singles wins. Lett, an eighth-grader and the top-ranked USTA 14 player in the state, improved to 17-0 with a 6-0, 6-0 shutout at No. 2 singles. Babaee is 14-3 at No. 1 singles, while Drake is 10-2 at No. 3, Sakarcan 13-2 at No. 4 and Burke 13-2 at No. 5.
The doubles team of senior Joe Cunningham and sophomore Trey Finch upped their record to 13-0. Cunningham is 16-0 in doubles this season.
“We’re confident, and I think a better team than last year,” said Cunningham. “We can’t be too overconfident, but if we play the way we are capable of playing we’re definitely a contender.”
Cunningham, who was a starting quarterback on the football team for two seasons and was 14-0 at doubles as a junior during the Vikings run to the Lower State championship match, hopes to go out with a ring.
“This season could be something special, something I never experienced in football,” he said. “And it would be nice to bring a state championship in tennis back to Spring Valley. It’s been a long time.”
In fact, the last Vikings tennis title was in 1982, when the state championship was still decided in a tournament format. Since the change over to dual meets, Spring Valley is 0-5 in state title matches. The Vikings, now in the Upper State, were dismissed in the Lower State finals by West Florence each of the past two seasons.
Spring Valley hosts a second-round match on Thursday against either Dorman or Easley.
Singles: Ashkon Babaee d. Seth Russell 6-0, 6-0; Brent Lett d. Drayton Wade 6-0, 6-0; Hampton Drake d. Brian Fitzpatrick 6-0, 6-1; Kenan Sakarcan d. Hunter Love 6-0, 6-0; Connor Burke d. Alex Antezana 6-2, 6-0. Doubles: Joe Cunningham/Trey Finch (SV) d. Beaver/Clark 6-0, 6-2.