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2-time defending champion Bears climb to 9-0

No opponent has measured up to the Mount Airy tennis team in 2023 as the Granite Bears pursue their third consecutive 1A State Championship.

Mount Airy improved to 9-0 on the season with a trio of victories this past week, including two over a pair of regional runners-up in 2022: Salisbury and Bishop McGuinness.

Neither Salisbury or Bishop won more than a single match against Mount Airy, and only one team has done so this season: 4A R.J. Reynolds in the season opener.

Even then, the Bears won the match 7-2 against a Reynolds squad that now sits at 6-2 overall.

Mount Airy returned three starters from its 2022 championship team: Carrie Marion, Ella Brant and Audrey Brown. Marion and Brant, who play No. 1 and No. 2 singles, were part of both the 2021 and 2022 1A State Championship teams.

This year’s squad looks much different in the middle of the lineup following the graduation of two-time state champions Kancie Tate, Audrey Marion and Charlotte Hauser.

“When you lose the three seniors that we lost I was definitely concerned – not just with filling those three spots on the court, but the leadership we lost with that group,” said Bears coach Luke Graham. “Kancie, Audrey and Charlotte are not only really good players, but they are just as good if not better people.”

Lily Morris, who started on the 2021 championship squad, returns to the Bears after missing the 2022 season with an injury. Morris is 8-1 on the season thus far.

“Getting her back has been really big for us,” Graham said.

Rounding out the starting six are sophomore Emmie Brant and freshman Lynn Meadows. Neither girl has lost a singles match this season.

Greer Tidd has also jumped into the starting six when needed, while both Tidd and Emma Rudisill have competed in doubles as well.

“Having those girls, and everyone on the team really, step up and put in a lot of work for us has been so important bridging the gap from last year,” Graham said.

Mount Airy began the season by winning all six of its matches in the month of August. Following the 7-2 victory over Reynolds, Mount Airy won a combined 44-of-45 individual matches against its next five opponents.

Only East Wilkes was able to take an individual match against Mount Airy, but the Bears still won the overall contest 8-1.

Mount Airy’s six victories in August consisted of three Northwest 1A Conference matches, two matches against 2A opponents and one against a 4A team.

September began with Mount Airy hosting Bishop McGuinness for the third time in three seasons. The two previous meetings were the 2021 and 2022 1A West Regional Championship matches, and the teams are both favored to reach the regional final once again this season.

The Bears defeated the Villains 8-1. Bishop returned five of its starters from the 2022 season.

Mount Airy had less than 24 hours to prepare for another tennis juggernaut: Salisbury. The Hornets finished 18-1 in 2022.

Mount Airy topped Salisbury 8-1. The win marked Graham’s 100th overall win at Mount Airy counting both boys and girls tennis.

Salisbury’s only previous loss in 2023 came against 4A Lake Norman.

The Granite Bears ended the week with a 9-0 conference win over Elkin.

Mount Airy will compete in three more matches this coming week. The bears host Forbush in nonconference action on Sept. 11, then resume conference play by traveling to Alleghany on Sept. 12 and hosting East Wilkes on Sept. 14.

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Source: https://www.mtairynews.com

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