Hearing some chatter from Salisbury before their match, the Newton-Conover tennis used it as motivation, went out on the court and took care of business.
Senior Austin Adams earned key victories in singles and doubles, as the Red Devils defeated the Hornets to advance to the third round of the playoffs next Tuesday.
“Thanks to the internet and social media, we started hearing talk that Salisbury was going to win states,” said Red Devils coach Brian Tate. “With as much success as we’ve had, it is hard to keep our guys focused and motivated. Any time someone gives us bulletin board material, you can believe I printed it out and showed my players.”
The motivation worked early on in the match, as the Red Devils (22-2) took a 2-0 lead in the match behind victories from Ryan Lampe and John Tate.
Trouble loomed on the horizon though, as Newton-Conover trailed by one set in three of its four remaining singles matches.
A victory by John Reid against Alan Lebowitz gave the Red Devils a third match win, but things were far from over.
The Hornets (18-2) forced the issue with victories by Steven Page and Alex Weant, which made the sixth and final singles match crucial for both teams.
That match, between the Red Devils’ Adams and Hornets’ Lewis Young, was dramatic to the final point.
Young took the first set 6-3, but Adams fired back with a 6-3 win in set two. It all came down to a 10-point tiebreaker for either a 4-2 Red Devil lead or 3-3 tie heading into doubles play.
Adams gained the early lead in the tiebreaker, 7-5, but Young climbed back with two straight points to tie the set.
Feeding off of the large crowd in attendance, Adams won three of the next four points for the set and match victory.
“I like to play off of the crowd,” Adams said. “In basketball, it always helped me. I used the momentum. I knew my teammates were down and winning my match would make a big difference. I tried, gave it all I had and pulled it out.”
With singles competition over, Adams and his partner, John Tate, completed the Red Devils’ match victory with a 10-1 doubles win over Young and Brock Overcash.
Due to conference priority, the Red Devils travel for their first road playoff match of the season next Tuesday.
They will face either Wilkes Central or Brevard, two teams they defeated last year on their way to a state championship.
“Brevard is a long trip,” coach Tate said. “We saw four of their guys at regionals. Wilkes Central is a deep team. I don’t know which one we will face. We are on the road for either one. Our guys are pretty excited about that match, and getting to next week. Salisbury was a big hump to get over.”