Bishop McGuinness isn’t an unknown player in boys dual-team tennis. It’s just been a while since it was in the state championship.
But five years after it won the NCHSAA Class 1-A state championship it will be playing Research Triangle at 12:30 today at the Burlington Tennis Center in the Class 1-A championship match. And Coach Larry Ingram has had a unique perspective in both instances.
Ingram, in his fourth year as the head coach for the Villains (17-0), was there in 2014, but as a parent. His son, Jonathan, was a junior that year for the Villains when they defeated perennial powerhouse Raleigh Charter.
“I was actually talking about this with my son (Thursday), I said, ‘Very few people have the opportunity to go to a state championship as a parent and then also go to the state championship as a coach,’” Larry Ingram said. “It’s a totally different feeling.”
McGuinness reached today’s final with a 5-4 victory Wednesday against Lincoln Charter in the 1-A Western Regional final. It was a bit of revenge for the Villains, after they lost to Lincoln Charter in the quarterfinals of the 2018 tournament.
“A lot of it is still sinking in,” Ingram said. “(Wednesday) was a great match. We played a great team and they were actually in the final four for three of four years. They knocked us out last year, so it made it a little more special that we could kind of return that favor.”
Junior Alex Chinnasami, who is 14-1 in singles matches this season for the Villains, went the furthest in the NCHSAA Class 1-A individual tournament. He lost 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 to Research Triangle’s John Hankinson in the semifinals of the state tournament.
Hankinson wasn’t the only player from the Research Triangle who flourished last week. The doubles team of Ronik Grewal and Sebastian Rodriguez defeated Voyager Academy’s Ben McQuaide and Kolbe McQuaid 6-2, 7-5 in the NCHSAA Class 1-A doubles final.
McGuinness senior Samuel McDonald has played matches at Nos. 1 and 2 singles, with 13 of his 14 wins coming in the No. 2 slot. Senior Jimmy Dasher is 15-0 at No. 4 singles, sophomore Bobby Peters is 14-0 at No. 5 singles and senior Ivo Pestana is 10-2 at No. 6 singles.
Research Triangle (19-1) is in a unique situation. A team from the school, which opened five years ago, is playing in a state championship for the first time in any sport.
“Obviously this is something we have never done as a program,” said Coach Josh Franceschina of the Raptors. “So it is very thrilling that we have reached this point.”
Research Triangle has made incremental growth the past three seasons, but it kept running into Raleigh Charter, which has won the previous four state championships. Research Triangle defeated Raleigh Charter three times this season — winning both conference matches in the regular season and then earning a 5-2 victory Monday in the quarterfinals.
Research Triangle defeated Franklin Academy 6-0 in Wednesday’s Class 1-A Eastern Regional final.
“We finally got over that hump of Raleigh Charter and we beat them three times this year, twice in conference and then we beat them in the quarterfinals of the playoffs,” Franceschina said. “So that was a big moment for us.”
Despite the improvement, there’s a sense of anxiety because Franceschina doesn’t know much about the Villains. That doesn’t mean Franceschina and his team lack confidence.
“I like to think we have a lot of confidence now,” he said. “They always say, ‘In order to be the best you have to beat the best.’ Right? So being able to knock them out really gave us a lot of confidence, and hopefully we’re going to carry that confidence into Saturday.”
As for the Villains, Ingram knows his players will have some nerves, but he’s hoping they’ll relax.
“It’s going to be attitude and whether you have the desire to win,” he said. “We have the talent. We just have to put it all together. We have to have a great day in everybody from 1-6 has got to do their part.”