Four years, four fourth round appearances. In the last home match of their careers, seniors Michael Moody, Matthew Moody, and Austin Cobb added that historic feat to their already impressive high school tennis resumes. On Wednesday afternoon, the trio of Wildcats will head to top seeded Panther Creek in hopes of finishing what they started by reaching their first 4A Dual Team State Championship since their freshman year in 2013.
“Being in a position where we are once again a win away from going to the State Championship just speaks to the consistency of this program” says Matthew Moody. After a 2-5 start to the season in the top singles spot, he has picked things up to the tune of a 6-3 record post-spring break. “We have learned to deal with pressure, this isn’t our first time here, and this isn’t going to be the first time this season that we are going to have to battle for a win” adds his brother Michael who is 5-1 since taking over the number three spot in singles for the Wildcats.
The road to Panther Creek has not been an easy one for Millbrook. In the team’s opening match of the season, Enloe swept the Wildcats in singles 6-0 on their home court. “I really didn’t know what to expect from this season after losing 6-0 to Enloe, that was a real shock” says sophomore Josiah Schainblatt. The Eagles got the Wildcats again 5-4 in a heartbreaker to bump the team down to a #2 seed at 16-2 on the year which forced Millbrook to hit the road in the playoffs.
In round one, the ‘Cats quickly dispatched of Pinecrest 6-0 to earn a trip to Wilmington to face undefeated New Hanover. In a battle of the Wildcats, it was Millbrook who got the upper hand by showcasing their biggest strengths in the Port City, depth and doubles. “Some teams have one or two really good players” says Mohamed Almontaser, “we have really good players one through six, and few teams can match that”. Almontaser, a junior is the epitome of Millbrook’s depth as he was able to capture the Cap-8 Tournament Singles Championship despite being the Wildcats’ #5 singles player. Against New Hanover, “Mo” was able to pick up a crucial singles win 6-1, 6-4 over Westley Gaines. Cobb, and Schainblatt followed with singles victories to send the team’s into doubles all knotted up at three. That’s where Millbrook would put New Hanover away on the strength of a Matthew Moody/Mohamed Almontaser doubles win, and a Austin Cobb/Josiah Schainblatt clincher, 10-7 over Marshall Waren, and Taylor Gaines.
For Cobb and Schainblatt, a trip to play doubles in a state championship would be quite familiar to the senior/sophomore duo. Last season, Austin and Josiah found themselves taking home the the state runner-up trophy in the doubles state championship. “The past has certainly prepared us” remarks Cobb, “being in these situations makes us all hungry to improve our game over the summer, and in each practice. Top to bottom, we all have an incredible desire to win”. The Wildcat tandem opened the season 9-0, and after two key doubles wins from Moody/Almontaser and Moody/Jabr to secure a third round victory against Green Hope, Cobb and Schainblatt found themselves in a spot where they could ease off the gas pedal in a 10-7 doubles loss to Ben Wayand and Vivek Ramesh.
“This has been fun but it really doesn’t mean much if you can’t get to the state championship” says Matthew Moody when asked about making a fourth straight regional final. What makes this feat so significant for Matthew, his brother Michael, and Austin Cobb is the fact that they are each going to start their fourth straight regional final. Putting aside who started, you have to go back fifteen years just find a team in the 4A East that qualified for four straight regional final appearances, and that was the 1998-2001 Terry Sanford Bulldogs. Amongst all of this success, Austin Cobb says that there is a bit of a drive behind the team given the fact that they have been successful for such a long stretch, “we don’t get the hype, and publicity in the area because we are not the “new shiny toy” per say. Panther Creek is the new hot commodity, and the last two years it had been Wakefield. Through all of it we have been here, and at times we have felt like we have been viewed as a fluke or after thought. We are here to play, and Wednesday at Panther Creek should show it”. Already in historical territory, Cobb and the Wildcats are just getting started.