WENDELL — The Clayton boys tennis team kept the Greater Neuse River 4A conference lead, claiming six matches to East Wake’s three in a contest for first place Wednesday.
“We’ve clinched co-champs (of the conference),” Clayton coach Ken Stivason said. East Wake (10-2 overall, 9-2) is only guaranteed a second-place finish if it can close out the season with wins over third-place West Johnston and fourth-place Garner.
A stalwart sophomore class deserves much of the credit for the win for the Comets (13-0, 12-0). On court Nos. 1 through 3, Clayton sophomores Klein Evans (6-1, 6-2), Naren Guha (6-1, 6-0) and Brooks Campbell (6-0, 6-0) each made quick work of his opponent in singles.
“It’s been that way all season long,” Stivason said, complimenting the consistency of his top three players.
“We haven’t lost a conference match in the two years since me, Brooks and Naren have been here,” Evans said. “Hopefully, we can keep that going for all four years.”
East Wake coach Jackson Glasgow knew his Warriors would have their hands full with Clayton’s top three. He hoped, however, that his squad could make up some ground at the bottom of the lineup.
“There was a tough match at four,” Glasgow said. “That match and one and two doubles really were the key today.”
East Wake’s Brooks Stancil (7-5, 6-4) and Jake Clement (7-5, 6-1) were both able to fend off stiff singles competition on court Nos. 5 and 6, respectively. Clayton senior Ian Bliss proved to be too much for Ty Matheny of the Warriors, though, as the Comet won 6-3, 6-4 on court No. 4.
Stancil and Clement then paired up for East Wake’s only other win of the day – a 9-7 doubles decision over Clayton’s Noah Deprest and Vance Lanier on court No. 3.
“I had good placement today,” Stancil said. “I kept it away from the net players in doubles and used different spins in singles to keep them off balance. Jake’s serve was really on in doubles, too.”
Although the Warriors got a strong push from the bottom up, it was not enough to affect the outcome. As Glasgow noted, the Comets earned their win on court Nos. 1 and 2 in doubles.
Evans and Campbell took down Will Clement and David Egan on court No. 1, while Guha and Bliss handled Matheny and Lane Adams on court No. 2. Both matches were decided by a score of 8-4.
“We just work really well together,” Evans said of his chemistry with Campbell. “We’re friends, too, so that helps a lot.”
Campbell posed a different theory as to what makes Clayton’s top doubles duo so devastating.
“I try to let Klein do everything,” Campbell said. “I like that I can lay back, I guess, during the match and I know he’ll get it. I’m just there to pick up whenever he slacks off, which is never.”
Evans is the conference’s defending singles champion after posting a 24-2 record as a freshman last season. Still, Evans is just a single cog – albeit a valuable one – in Clayton’s undefeated formula.
“Clayton is a great team, and they have been for a couple years now,” Glasgow said. “They’ll only get better with a whole lot of young talent at the top.”