Steven Christie was a second-team all-state singles player for Cathedral’s tennis team as a freshman, and then spent the next two seasons either battling injuries or attending a tennis academy in Florida.
He enrolled in North Central second semester last year and has moved into the No. 1 singles spot, where he has thrived while relishing the opportunity to be a part of a team again.
Christie dropped just one game at No. 1 singles Wednesday afternoon, helping the second-ranked Panthers to a 5-0 win against No. 22 Hamilton Southeastern in the North Central Regional final. Christie downed Alec Gretencord 6-1, 6-0, improving to 20-1 this season.
“It’s so nice,” said Christie of playing team tennis. “It’s nice having everyone working hard around you. It motivates you so much. Everyone’s competing for the same goal, and everyone wants to do the same team: get a state championship.”
North Central (17-0) will next play No. 6 Delta (22-1) in Saturday’s Homestead Semistate. The Panthers dropped just 19 games against the Royals (11-8) and kept alive their hopes for a third straight state title.
“I think (our focus) has improved since the beginning of the season,” Panthers coach Dan Brunette said. “We came into the season with a lot of cheering, a lot of emotion, and we’ve really calmed down. We’re playing with a little bit more of a sense of identity (and) a little bit more purpose.”
After Christie picked up the Panthers’ first point, No. 2 singles player J.T. Wynne followed suit with a 6-2, 6-3 win against Marcus Lutz. Almost simultaneously, North Central’s No. 1 doubles team of J.J. Kroot and John Tuerk then clinched the match with a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Josh DeFonce and Nick Krauter.
North Central sophomore Timothy Bray then downed HSE’s Eric Lutz 6-4, 6-0 at No. 3 singles, and the No. 2 doubles team of Cole Bossler and Simon Shamo capped the shutout with a 6-2, 7-5 win against Mark Slaninka and Elias Yarling.
Brunette has used different combinations at No. 2 doubles this season but liked what he saw from Bossler and Shamo.
“I thought the No. 2 doubles team played great for a set,” Brunette said. “They got a little rattled in the second set. The HSE team made a nice adjustment … and it took us a few games to get used to it. Even though they lost a couple games … and lost a couple points in a row, they weren’t hanging their heads. I thought those guys did a nice job pulling through it.”
At North Central
North Central 5, Hamilton Southeastern 0
1: Steven Christie (NC) def. Alex Gretencord (HSE), 6-1, 6-0; 2: J.T. Wynne (NC) def. Marcus Lutz (HSE), 6-2, 6-3; 3: Timothy Bray (NC) def. Eric Lutz (HSE), 6-4, 6-0.
1: J.J. Kroot/John Tuerk (NC) def. Josh DeFonce/Nick Krauter (HSE), 6-2, 6-0; 2: Cole Bossler/Simon Shamo (NC) def. Mark Slaninka/Elias Yarling (HSE), 6-2, 7-5.