Knights’ Peaire and Lehman aim for more tennis success
LINCOLNTON – Evan Peaire and Brian Lehman decided early in North Lincoln High’s tennis season that second place was unacceptable.
The Knights’ top doubles pair finished second in the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A conference’s tournaments in 2010 and 2011. Things had to be different the third time around.
“This year, we really figured out our playing styles,” Peaire said.
They also figured out how to win the league title.
Peaire and Lehman defeated Lincolnton High’s Ethan Miller and Alan Silva 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) on April 25 at North Lincoln.
“Finally winning (the title) was great,” Lehman said. “It wasn’t something I really expected.”
North Lincoln coach Jay Thomson was less surprised.
“Evan and Brian really worked on their games this year,” Thomson said. “I wouldn’t say we worked any harder (than last year), but we worked more specifically on things than last year. We focused on what all our guys needed to do to win. Evan and Brian were two who really did that well.
“Evan has every stroke there is. He can hit the ball. Where he’s focused is his mental game. (In the past) if he would lose a point he would try too hard and lose more. He’s gotten better at that. There’s still a ways to go and he knows that, but he’s getting there quickly.”
Lehman’s game is different than Peaire’s, but not just because he’s a superior server and Peaire has a better ground stroke. Lehman serves left-handed. But he plays right-handed during volleys. Lehman moves the racket to his left hand for any overhead shot. It adds a wrinkle to his game that Thomson said makes life tougher for him on the court. Opponents can plan for it and aim shots to make him change hands.
You might miss Lehman’s quick switch if you’re not looking for it. Many of Lehman’s opponents don’t even see it.
“It’s fun to watch him play,” Thomson said. “I’ll ask other coaches or players, ‘Was your opponent left-handed or right-handed?’ And they won’t know what to say. I’ve never seen anything like that from a player, but he makes it work.”
Peaire said it’s not had much affect on their doubles game because the two are used to playing alongside one another.
They’re also unselfish.
“We help each other out at the net whenever we have to,” Peaire said.
He and Lehman spend at least eight to 10 hours on the court together every week trying to get even more in sync.
Peaire said that’s what made the pair more successful in conference matches.
“We keep each other focused,” Peaire said. “We always adapt to whatever’s going on in a match and we play off each other’s strengths.”
Lehman said trust and experience make a difference, too.
“It’s easy to get along with your tennis partner when you trust him and you know him well,” Lehman said. “That helps.”
Peaire said that while he and Lehman played well in the league title match, it wasn’t their best effort.
The pair have plenty of confidence entering the Class 2A West Regional tournament in Brevard on Friday, May 4, after earning the conference champion title.
“It definitely helped us feel like we could do well (at regionals),” Peaire said of the conference title. “We both think if we keep playing at our best, we have a shot at states.”
Something will have to change for Peaire and Lehman to improve on their past two regional tournaments.
“We’ve gotten really tough draws in the past couple of years,” Peaire said. “Playing tough teams like Newton-Conover hasn’t been easy on us.”