Harnett Central's Gumaro Benitez discusses his decision to play two sports at the collegiate level.
ANGIER — Harnett Central's Gumaro Benitez hadn't been playing tennis long, but when the senior notched a straight-set singles win over Union Pines' No. 6 seed Joey Tortora this past April, it marked an indelible moment.
"It was really fun. ... After the match, their (Union Pines) No. 1 and No. 2 gave me a few compliments. It made me kind of happy," Benitez said Wednesday inside the Central media center.
Now, the two-sport athlete is set to join both the tennis and soccer programs at Pfeiffer University in the fall.
Benitez spent his early prep career honing his skills on the pitch, serving as a viable goalkeeper for the Trojans. He posted two shutouts as a junior in his first varsity action in the net.
That season, Benitez's soccer teammates also prodded him to join a budding athletics program at the school and he immediately responded with a successful 3-1 doubles record before the campaign was cut short due to COVID-19 concerns.
Central coach Jay James says it's Benitez's teamwork that drew the attention of Pfeiffer tennis coach Justin Fainter.
"Coach Fainter said he had really nice volley skills and double skills, and that's very rare," James said.
"He said Gumaro will fit into that mold – he could just put him with anybody and feel that he can be successful."
Benitez finished his career with a 20-8 overall record, including an 11-5 mark in doubles play. He contends that choosing Pfeiffer was based on a familiarity factor.
"It was a gut feeling. ... He (Fainter) reminded me of Coach James. He was really nice," Benitez said, noting how well the campus tour went.
The Falcons tennis team finished 5-4 overall last season, while the soccer program went 2-4-2.
Benitez also intends to major in Biology.