Ready For State Tourney

Northeastern High School tennis players (l-r) Sim Hurdle; Michael Carter; Pat Thornton, coach; Alex Kockler; and Wilson Wysor get ready Thursday afternoon to head to Cary for the State Tournament.

Two pairs of Eagles are in Cary in pursuit of a state tennis championship.

Northeastern High School doubles teams Wilson Wysor & Michael Carter, who were silver medalists last weekend in the Class 2A East regional tournament at Greene Central High School in Snow Hill, and Simeon Hurdle & Alex Kockler, who finished third in the regional tournament, are slated to compete today in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association State Tournament in boys tennis.

Carter said playing top seed team Tucker Williams and Jeremy Dawson in the regional championship was good preparation for the state tournament, which is being held at Cary Tennis Center today and tomorrow.

“It definitely tested us — tested our mental game,” Carter said. “But if we stay calm and stay in control of our mental game I think we have a really good shot at going far (this weekend).”

Coach Pat Thornton explained that a doubles team will have to win three straight matches in the single elimination tournament to make it to the state championship match on Saturday.

It’s a lofty goal, and one the four Eagles are eager to chase.

While acknowledging that “to be brutally honest” the state championship is a long shot, Kockler said it’s still within reach if they play their best tennis.

“We’ve got it in us,” Kockler said. “If we go out there and we’re feeling good and our shots are landing, then yeah, you could do it.”

Kockler said playing the East regional champions from Greene Central was a good way to toughen up for the state tournament.

“I learned there are some good teams out there, which is what you’re going to see at states for sure,” Kockler said.

Despite losing to Greene Central’s Williams & Dawson, “we played them pretty good,” he said.

Thornton said she was proud of how the Northeastern pairs performed last weekend against the regional champions from Greene Central.

“I feel like we played that team tough and I feel like we have as good a chance as anybody to make it to Saturday,” Thornton said.

Thornton said the players would be spending the night in Cary Thursday night and hopefully would get a chance to hit some balls Thursday evening in preparation for Friday’s matches.

She said the boys did a great job of transitioning from soccer to tennis in compacted seasons scheduled in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The players’ experience working together in soccer probably helped some as they learned to function as doubles teams on the tennis court, she said.

“And they played a lot over the summer,” Thornton said.

Carter said the regional tournament was a great experience.

“It was fun,” he said. “It was exciting.”

And the state tournament is even more exciting.

“We’re all excited to go to states,” Carter said. “We’re looking forward to that.”

Carter said he will be focusing on one match at a time in the state tournament.

“My goal is to focus on whatever match we’re playing and not worry about the next one until we get there,” Carter said.

Ronald Nixon, Northeastern’s athletic director, said it’s exciting to have two doubles teams in the state tournament.

“It’s also motivating,” Nixon said. “They practice off each other and they feed off each other.”