Lampe, Choi try to lead Red Devils back to a state championship

The Newton-Conover boys’ tennis team is looking to repeat their 2010 season and give the program another state title.

The Red Devils finished with a 26-0 record last season, including a 14-0 mark in the Catawba Valley Athletic Conference.

Leading the charge this season will be the doubles team of Hang Lak Choi and Ryan Lampe. The two tennis players were on separate teams in the state championship doubles match.

Choi played with senior Will Huggins, while Lampe played with senior Dillon Cervantez. Choi and Huggins defeated Lampe and Cervantez, 6-3, 6-2, to claim the championship.

After Huggins and Cervantes graduated, Lampe and Choi will be partnered together this season with hopes of a repeat. Choi believes the two will be a formidable combination.

“I’ve actually played with him a long time,” Choi said. “I’ve played with him since I was a sophomore. We always practice together and we play doubles together. I trust him as my partner. I think me and him can do well together.”

The adjustment for Lampe has been fairly smooth.

“Hang and I play United States Tennis Association tournaments together,” Lampe said. “So we are pretty used to each other.”

Red Devils’ head coach Brian Tate believes that not only Choi and Lampe, but the rest of his team are familiar enough with one another that they can work together.

“Most of these guys play with each other year round,” Tate said. “They are pretty interchangible. They have been playing in tournaments outside of here for 4-5 years. I could pull names out of a hat and everyone knows each other is is real comfortable with each other.”

A point of emphasis early in the season for Tate will be working on the line up, particularly the very end of it.

“Last year, our number five and six were a junior and senior.,” Tate said. “I don’t think they lost a match all year down there. This year, we have a sophomore and freshman in those spots. So that is our biggest concentration is getting those guys some experience.”

Choi believes the early part of the season to sets the tone.

“It is really important,” Choi said. “For me, if I do great at the beginning of the season, it carries through the rest of the season. I’m not sure about the other guys, but that is how it is for me.”

Tate expects Shelby, Salisbury and Brevard to be challenges along the way and he is already making adjustments to face them in the postseason. His main focus will be doubles matches, which is something his team did not have to win last season in order to advance.

“For us to get back to the state finals again, it is going to be a tougher road this time around,” Tate said. “I keep trying to prepare our guys and use your conference matches. We keep working and trying to get better.”

As for Lampe and Choi, Tate has confidence in them and others on the team to get back to the same level they were at last season.

“I really expect those two to do well with what they did last year,” Tate said. “I expect them to be back in the state finals playing against their teammates again.”