ROCKINGHAM — Colt Auman, Andrew Balzer and Brandon Ingram know it is going to be difficult to qualify for the state tennis tournament, but they all have been down this path before.
Last season, the doubles pairing of Balzer and Ingram lost in the opening round of the 4A East Region to top-seeded Jack Sandlin and Michael Warren out of New Hanover 6-1, 6-0.
Auman and doubles partner John Pittman won their first round match against Clayton’s Brooks Campbell and Ian Bliss before falling to Chase Horton and Evan Linett from Hoggard 6-0, 6-1.
As a freshman, Auman teamed with his brother, Alex, advancing to the first round of the state tournament.
Now Auman will try his luck in singles, while Balzer and Ingram will battle in the doubles bracket once again. Auman is undefeated in singles and doubles play this season and captured the Southeastern Conference singles title. Balzer and Ingram have one loss and won the SEC doubles crown.
It was the first time in school history, Richmond Senior has claimed the conference singles and doubles championships in the same year.
“If I get a seed I should be in pretty good shape to get to state,” Auman said. “I’m pretty sure there are going to be some unseeded players who are going to be good. Getting a seed gives me a bigger chance to avoid a seeded player in the beginning.”
Balzer and Ingram agreed with their teammate and hope to avoid the same fate as last year. Balzer thinks if the pair is seeded, it would be a confidence boost and could push them into the second round or further.
Ingram feels it was a good experience facing the top doubles team in the region last year even though they lost in straight sets.
“I feel like we have gotten a whole lot better,” Ingram said.
Ingram added having played with Balzer for three years has been a plus. Ingram also believes the added work on net play he and Balzer have put in during fourth block is key as well.
“The big thing is communication, that’s really helped us out,” Ingram said. “We know when to switch without saying a word. I think this practice gives us a clear volleying advantage in our matches.”
Balzer chimed in and said his game needed to improve.
“I wasn’t very good at the net,” Balzer said. “We work on volleying for 15 minutes each day and it has helped out a lot.”
Sports editor Shawn Stinson may be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.