For Spring Valley’s boys tennis team, the third time was not the charm.
West Florence won four of five singles matches to beat the Vikings, 4-2, in the Class 4A Lower State championship Thursday at the Richland County Tennis Center, the third time this season the defending state champions had beaten Spring Valley.
West Florence will face Lexington on Saturday for the state championship. The Knights won last year’s championship match, 4-3.
“Every match has been close, and those are two character teams, both of them,” West Florence coach Charles Nelson said. “Our conference is not really strong, and getting to play some of the better teams around the state really helped us.”
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
West Florence got the wins they expected at No. 1 and No. 2 singles from Bobby Browning and Pruitt Williams, respectively.
Browning, last individual state individual runner-up, beat Ashkon Babaee 6-4, 6-1.
Williams earned the 100th match win of his career, besting Chris Harvey 6-2, 6-0.
Williams’ win put him in some elite company. The only other Knight to win 100 matches was Mitch Sprengelmeyer, who won individual state titles in 1991 and 1993.
Brent Lett, a seventh grader, got Spring Valley’s sole singles point, beating Matthew Canelon 6-2, 6-2. The No. 2 doubles team of Sudeep Sunthankar and Joe Cunningham earned the Vikings’ other point, beating Price Gibson and Rhys Miles 6-3, 6-2.
“Brent has the physical skills and the mental ability to be the best. He lost to him (Canelon) the last time and came back today and beat him decisively,” Spring Valley coach Matt Herms said.
“They played well everywhere else. You’ve got to hand it to them; they came ready. We beat them both times at No. 4 and No. 5 singles (before), and they won today, so that was the difference.”
“Basically, what they were counting on was winning at 3, 4 and 5, and at No. 2 doubles,” he said. “(No. 4 singles player) John Duncan has really improved. He’s a senior and he played as hard as you can ask him to play. Those were two key matches for us.”
Daniel Sechtin beat Kenan Sackarcan 6-2, 6-1 at No 3, and Duncan beat Trey Finch 6-3, 6-3.
The Vikings will lose two players in their starting lineup to graduation, so Herms said his team’s best days may be still ahead.
“Ashkon’s No. 7 in the state and Brent’s at the top of his age group,” Herms said. “And I’ve got a lot of young guys coming up, so our future is looking great.”
Reach McLaurin at (803) 240-3514.