With a perfect 12-0 record, the Ardrey Kell boys tennis team is tied for fifth in the Class 4A state rankings this week and appear to be in position to make a run for its first state championship.
But first, there’s another title they’re looking to clinch: the Southwestern 4A conference regular-season crown. And the Knights appear tailor-made to do that as well.
With a senior-laden roster that includes two of North Carolina’s top players – Nos. 1 and 2 players Mike Roberts and Jim Fan each qualified for the state individual tournament last season – and a number of other team members with impressive singles records, Ardrey Kell is pursuing its first league title since 2009.
To win it, the Knights must get past another unbeaten team, Providence (10-0) on Thursday, April 19. But Ardrey Kell coach Roy Hudson isn’t putting any extra pressure on his team.
“It’s just another tennis match to us,” Hudson said. “Our team knows what’s in store, but at the same time, I tell them to face it like any other match. We’re going out there to win, and I think (our players are) going to be ready for it. But we’ve seen Providence doing real well this season, too, and it’s going to be an exciting end to our conference season.”
Roberts (16-0) and Fan (18-1) have excelled at the top of the lineup, but they’ve had plenty of help. No. 3 player Karthik Arunkumar, only a sophomore, has a 15-2 mark. Senior Thomas King is 17-1 at No. 4, junior Matthew Dockstader is 11-1 at No. 5, and senior Zuhair Bedwan has a perfect 16-0 record in the No. 6 slot.
Hudson notes that seniors such as Justin Mauney (11-0), Joey Holzmeister (8-0) and Brandon Boyd (3-0) also have made strong contributions.
“A lot of our success has been due to the fact that I have some seniors on the team that are leaders who have been on really strong teams in the past, and they continue to bring that experience forward year after year,” Hudson said. “All those seniors bring a lot of depth to my team, and that’s just real important.
“We’ve got a big match coming up Thursday against Providence, and the depth of my team is hopefully going to be the key to our winning.”