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Men's tennis duo hunts for wins

One year before Ronald Curry's infamous decision to attend North Carolina, it was Virginia that plucked two prominent tennis players from the Tar Heels' backyard.

From 1996-1997, Huntley Montgomery and Brian Hunter starred for Chapel Hill High School's perennially powerful tennis team. At the time, most in the Tobacco Road community expected selecting a college would be easy for the highly-sought recruits.

Yet when No. 16 North Carolina and No. 6 Duke roll into Charlottesville this weekend, Montgomery and Hunter will be on the other side of the court, playing for the Cavaliers.

Hunter has lived in Chapel Hill his entire life, and while growing up he always attended the yearly clash between the Tar Heels and Blue Devils.

Montgomery moved to Chapel Hill in his junior year of high school and teamed with Hunter to lead their team to a 19-0 record and an eventual state championship.

"I got a lot of flack for not going to Carolina," Montgomery said. "When I first moved there, I pretty much had the idea I was going to Carolina or Duke."

Hunter narrowed his final three choices down to Virginia, North Carolina and Illinois. In the end though, he followed his best friend by becoming a Cav.

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    "Getting away from home was a big part of it," Hunter said. "Carolina is a great school, with a great tennis program, but Virginia turned out to be a much better situation for me."

    In addition to Montgomery and Hunter, the Cavs added top prospects Brian Vahaly and Tommy Croker to its stellar 1997 recruiting class, ranking the quartet among the top three classes in the nation.

    "I knew it was up-and-coming and had potential to be a great team, and that excited me," Hunter said.

    "I just liked the school more," Montgomery said. "I haven't looked back on that decision once. If anything, playing here has made me hate Carolina even more. I've really enjoyed beating the Heels for the past two years, so hopefully we can do it once more."

    As roommates their first year at Virginia, the Huntley and Hunter combo caused more than a little confusion.

    "We would hang out so much that people would confuse us," Montgomery said. "They would mistake us for the name, and because Hunter and I look alike."

    This year Montgomery has had a solid season, ranking 51st in singles and teaming with Vahaly as the nation's No. 23 doubles tandem. The junior captain had an impressive fall, beating several ranked opponents, and is a good candidate for a spot in the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships.

    "Everybody knows my name now," Montgomery said. "So hopefully I will be able to put some respect behind it. I'm tenacious and I'm going to fight my ass off to find a way to beat these guys."

    Montgomery, the quickest and most athletic player on the Cav team, also is known for his flamboyant personality and intensity between the white lines.

    "He is a very experienced tennis player," Cavalier coach Dick Stockton said. "He has amazing speed on the court, and because of it he is never out of a point. He is very competitive and doesn't give up, which rubs off on everyone else."

    Hunter, who plays in the No. 5 singles slot, was voted the team's Most Improved Player last season and has worked hard to become a solid contributor for the Cavaliers in only his second season of full-time play.

    After a demoralizing 4-3 upset loss at Virginia Tech Tuesday, the Huntley and Hunter duo will be looked upon heavily as the Cavs fight for an NCAA Tournament berth this weekend at the Snyder Tennis Center.

    "I think it is the biggest weekend of the year for us," Hunter said. "We've definitely had a rivalry with them these past few years. I want to beat Carolina and Duke more than anything and our whole team feels that way."

    Both opponents come in riding hot streaks, as North Carolina has risen through the collegiate rankings while Duke, the defending ACC Champion, has maintained its steady perch atop the conference.

    "Carolina came out of nowhere to be one of the most improved teams in the country," Stockton said. "And Duke is almost in another league as far as the ACC [is concerned], but destiny is in our own hands"