HENDERSONVILLE The Wilson Central Wildcat tennis teams managed a great showing at the District 9-AAA Individual Tournament at Memorial Park. Highlighting the Wildcats run was sophomore Michael Mercante who won the district boys singles title with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 win over Hendersonville junior Jackson Kinsler on Tuesday. Mercante is the second player from Wilson Central to ever win the singles title. The first was Tyler Pullen in 2003 while Daniel Webb was runner-up in 2009 and 2011.
Mercante, who defeated Hendersonville’s Brady Rucker 6-1, 6-0 in the semi-finals, came out with a flurry of errors that saw the sophomore fall behind 3-0, and later 5-2.
Trying to find his consistency, Mercante began playing more balls cross court safely due to the high winds. This got Mercante within striking distance, but Kinsler broke Mercante to take the first set.
“I was a little impatient with my hitting, and I was trying to place it pretty good, but the wind took it out of bounds a lot,” Mercante said.
Mercante began shoring up errant ground strokes by continuing to implement cross court shots to start the second set. This strategy paid off as Kinsler began to falter as the points got longer and more physical.
Mercante won 12 of the final 13 points as he advanced to Region 5-AAA Tournament on May 15 held at Memorial Park.
“I was a little nervous, and I just stayed confident,” Mercante said. “It felt great, and its my first district title.”
With Mercante was a slew of Wilson Central players who made it to the semifinal round on day two of the tournament.
Over the past three years Wilson Central had only a singles (Mercante, 2016) and a doubles (Houston Wood and Reece Gaddes, 2015) pairing to make it to the second round.
The Wildcats had three singles players and two doubles teams advance to the second day of competition.
Sophomore Savannah Westbrook, seeded fourth in the girls singles draw, won her first match by defeating Beech’s Erin Davidson 6-0, 6-2. Westbrook went on to handle Station Camp’s Makala Davidson 6-2, 6-1 to earn a spot on the semifinals.
However, Westbrook fell to top seeded Lucy Sims of Hendersonville 6-0, 6-2. Westbrook did claim third place with an 8-4 win over Hendersonville’s Bella Lodge.
Wilson Central seniors Wood and Akbar Rahmani earned the second seed in the boys doubles tournament, and earned a couple of resounding wins on day one.
Rahmani and Wood opened the tournament with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Portland’s Brandon Meador and Lonnie White. The good fortune continued as the senior pair eliminated Station Camp’s Evan Savajola and Robert Smith 6-0, 6-1.
Rahmani and Wood met up with the three seed Kaleb Jasper and Giovanni Santos of Lebanon in the semifinal round with a berth in the district finals and an invite to the region tournament on the line.
Jasper and Santos jumped out to an early 3-1 lead as the pair held on for a 6-4 first set win.
In the second set, Jasper and Santos climbed out to a 5-3 lead, but a service hold from Rahmani and a break of serve by Santos drew the match level at five-all.
Eventually, the set went to a tiebreaker where Rahmani and Wood earned a 7-5 that forced a third set.
Like the first set, Jasper and Santos raced out to an early 4-1 lead, but Rahmani and Wood managed to take three-straight games to get the match back on serve. However, the Lebanon duo were able to break Rahmani to give the Blue Devils a 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-4 win.
Rahmani and Wood fell to the fourth seeded Jared Burns and Garrett Franklin of Hendersonville 8-1 for a fourth place finish.
Having lost only one match all year and winning mainly in easy fashion, junior Andrew Denning had not spent much time on court this season.
Playing against Gallatin’s Justin White, Denning had trouble controlling the match as White managed to deflect Denning’s pace, which frustrated the junior.
Denning dropped a long first set 4-6, but the match did not slow down from there.
Facing a pair of match points against him at 5-6 in the second set, Denning proved mentally tough in taking the two points that eventually leveled the match at 6-all, forcing a tiebreaker.
Denning came out early and controlled the tiebreaker and held off a late charging White for a 7-5 advantage, forcing the third set.
A back and forth third set saw Denning break White in the set’s 12th game that gave the junior a 7-5 win.
Roughly two hours later Denning was back on court to face third seed John Kelley of Lebanon. In another long match that lasted nearly two hours, Denning battled to earn a 6-4, 6-4 win.
Looking weary, from his all day affair, Denning came back the next day and dropped a 6-0, 6-2 decision to Kinsler in the semifinals, and later fell 8-4 to Rucks for fourth place.
The last of the Wilson Central semifinalists were the girls doubles third seed seniors Jennifer Beckham and Lani Lee.
Beckham and Lee opened with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Kinzy Cordoza and Jenna Luna of Gallatin. Beckham and Lee continued through the next round by defeating Allysa Castrejon and Sara Edmondson of Beech 6-1, 6-0.
Beckham and Lee would take on Hendersonville’s Grace Phillips and Caroline Miller, who were seeded second in the girls doubles draw.
The senior tandem came out strong, and held a 5-4 lead against the Lady Commando duo.
However, Lee was broken while attempting to serve for the set. A tiebreaker was needed to settle the first set, and Beckham and Lee climbed out for a 6-4 lead, earning a pair of set points.
However, Phillips and Miller managed to take the last four points of the set to steal an 8-6 win in the tiebreaker.
A deflated Beckham and Lee could not muster enough to stave off the hard charging Hendersonville team as Phillips and Miller took the 6-3 win in the second set.
Beckham and Lee dropped an 8-6 decision to top seeded Kennedy Cole and Carly Earnhardt of Mt. Juliet 8-6 for a fourth place finish. Cole and Earnhardt were upset in the semifinal round by Gallatin’s Autumn and Grace Pincock 6-3, 1-6, 6-4.
Junior Cassie Joslin and sophomore Sydney Miller fell on the first day of the tournament to Cole and Earnhardt 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, and third seeded Jacey Staggs was upset in the opening round by Lodge 6-2, 6-2.