Branson Smith followed up a strong freshman campaign by coming one step closer to the ultimate state championship prize this season.

The West Henderson sophomore finished the season with a 12-4 record overall and a 9-4 Western Mountain Athletic Conference record. It’s his postseason play, however, that has earned Smith the Times-News Prep Tennis Player of the Year.

Smith entered the West Regionals as the No. 3 seed and emerged as the No. 2 seed headed into the state finals. In the regionals he beat Forestview's Charlie Schuls - a Villanova commit -  who had previously won every set he'd played in.

"He took a big step in the postseason," West coach Allen Combs said.  "That was a big deal for him. He knows what he has to do to take the next step now." 

In the state finals, Smith finished the season third.

He earned All-State, All-Region and All-WMAC honors.

2018 All-Area Tennis Team

Stephen Williams, Hendersonville, sophomore: Williams was the No. 1 player for the Bearcats this season and won the Mountain Six Conference singles championship.

Liam Baer, Brevard, senior: Baer finished the regular season 15-0 for the Blue Devils. Baer and teammate, Charles Kang, competed at the state finals as a doubles team and reached the semifinals. He will play next season at UNC Asheville and earned All-State, All-Region and All-Mountain Six Conference honors.

Charles Kang, Brevard, senior: Kang finished 13-2 this season in singles competition. He and teammate, Liam Baer, reached the semifinals in the 2-A doubles finals this season.

Jared Berry, West Henderson, sophomore:  Berry finished 12-4 overall and 9-4 in Western Mountain Athletic Conference play. He earned All-WMAC honors.

Mitchell Young, West Henderson, senior: Young was a conference regional qualifier. He finished 10-5 overall and 7-5 in the Western Mountain Athletic Conference.

Kyle Stephens, West Henderson, senior: Stephens finished 13-3 overall and 10-3 in the Western Mountain Athletic Conference. He was a conference regional qualifier.

Ryan Heider, Polk County, junior: Hyder finished the season 15-0 in singles competition. He doubled with his brother, Henry, in the postseason. They reached the semifinals.