Tennis out in Round 1; Gregory regional runner-up

Published 10:07 am Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Davie tennis team’s dream season ended in the first round of the state playoffs. That isn’t what any record-setting team wants, but this was a tip-your-cap kind of match.

Providence, which drubbed Davie 5-1 at South Davie Middle on May 2, is a supremely talented team.

“They’re better than any team in our conference by three or four players,” coach Shane Nixon said. “They’re just really, really good. I told the guys there is no shame in this. I’m not sure how we ended up drawing them in the first round.”

The Panthers (15-3) have two losses to top-ranked Myers Park. Their only other loss is to second-ranked Ardrey Kell.

“Their coach (Scott Rickel) is a legend,” Nixon said. “He played tennis at Clemson. He’s been in Charlotte for 30 years. He’s a tennis pro at Quail Hollow Country Club. He said: ‘I knew when I saw the draw that y’all had not been treated fairly. We’re really good. You guys have got, what, one or two kids who play year-round?’ I said: ‘One.’ He said: ‘I’ve got seven.’”

Davie’s saving grace was No. 1 seed Elijah Gregory, who continued his phenomenal run with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Patrick Meehan (11-3).

“(Meehan) would have beaten every other No. 1 (player) in our conference,” Nixon said. “(Rickel) said Elijah is easily a Division-I player. He said they’ve only played against one player all year that’s better than him, and that’s (Ryan Jurist) from Lake Norman. Jurist beat Elijah in the state quarterfinals last year. (Rickel) said he thinks Elijah can beat Jurist.”

The Panthers defeated senior Sam Jordan at No. 2, junior Jack Messick at three, junior Ben Fouts at four, freshman Ben Fleming at five and junior Parker Froelich at six.

“Their two, three, four, five and six … I don’t know that they would have lost in our conference,” Nixon said. “I mean they’re just that good.”

Despite the loss, it was a ride for all time for the War Eagles. At 17-2, they tied the record for wins in a season. This team, though, owns the edge in winning percentage as the 2006 team went 17-3. Their only other loss was 5-4 at Reynolds on March 29. They earned their first playoff berth in four years. They were seeking the second playoff win in program history. Instead, they were stuck with a fifth straight first-round loss dating to 2007.

“It will put us in the conversation – at least – as the greatest men’s team in school history,” Nixon said.


Gregory’s season was a complete joyride, until he ran into Hugh Knapp of Grimsley in the Midwest Regional finals. Knapp handed Gregory his first loss of the season.

Still, it was an excellent showing for the Central Piedmont Conference singles champion. Gregory’s runner-up showing was Davie’s best effort in five years (Scott Gallimore was regional runner-up in 2012). At 24-1, he very likely holds the record for season wins, a record that he probably already owned with 23 victories as a junior.

The regional was held at Grimsley on May 5-6. Gregory was seeded No. 1 by a vote from Midwest Regional coaches.

In the first round, Gregory defeated No. 4 Jason Knight of Grimsley 6-4, 6-4.

“I felt like Elijah got a terrible draw in round one,” Nixon said. “He was the only seeded player to draw a player who got votes as a seed. The kids from Grimsley are really good. Elijah got off to good start and handled him rather easily.”

In the quarterfinals, Gregory routed Reynolds’ Grayson Lievens 6-1, 6-1.

“He’s a familiar foe for Elijah and one he had just beaten 6-0, 6-0 in the CPC Tournament,” Nixon said.

One day later in the semifinals, Gregory took down Riverside’s Zack Kim 6-3, 6-1.

“Neither player played that well in the first set,” Nixon said. “It was cold and windy, which added to some unusually errant play. Elijah righted the ship and got rolling.”

Gregory and second-seeded Knapp met in the finals. It was a rematch from the 2016 third-place match, which Gregory won. But Knapp has improved substantially over a year’s time, and it showed in a 6-0, 6-1 win over Gregory.

“Knapp has grown about an inch and put on about 25 pounds of muscle,” Nixon said. “Knapp has lost just once all year. He played like a man on a mission. It felt like he didn’t miss a forehand all day. He simply overpowered Elijah, which is a big statement.”

Despite his first 2017 loss, Gregory continued his ascent. In the regional as a freshman, he went 0-1. As a sophomore, he went 1-1 and failed to advance. As a junior, he went 3-1 to claim third and earn a state berth. And as a senior, he finished second to earn another state berth. The top four finishers in singles and doubles grabbed state berths.

“I am very proud of the way he played,” Nixon said. “He represents Davie County and War Eagle athletics so well both on the court and off.”