CARY — Most of the final matches for Tri-Nine Conference girls’ tennis teams were last week.
Only the top two teams know for certain that their year will continue in the state playoffs in two weeks.
The postseason isn’t everything for all teams, in part because of its selectivity. For some, the biggest reward is watching individual players improve throughout the year. And in the case of Cary and Middle Creek, it’s sometimes about being able to track team progress from year to year.
The two teams met Wednesday in the last Tri-Nine match for each, and Cary came away victorious 5-0 as the match was halted mid-singles matches.
“We were at the very bottom when I started, and not winning anything,” said Cary coach Janet Trotter. “These other girls have really stepped up to the plate. They’re not year-round players but they work and work and work and the results are pretty awesome this year. They should be really proud of themselves.”
Both programs are continuing their climb to the top of the league after being just a few years removed from the cellar.
Cary (12-5, 12-4) was last in the league in Trotter’s first season in 2008 but locked up third place this season.
Middle Creek’s Rhonda Blanchard is in her second year, and this year’s Mustangs (9-9, 8-8) finished .500 in the league – a far cry from the 0-16 conference record it posted the year prior to Blanchard’s tenure.
“Last year, my first year, we had one freshman try out. This year we had six,” Blanchard said. “I see Middle Creek tennis only going up.”
Imps junior Hannah Jabusch won in both doubles and singles to help close out Middle Creek early. The next hope for Cary is that they’ll be one of two teams in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs. Wild cards are selected by overall winning percentage among those teams that do not receive automatic bids. The first round is Oct. 16.
“The last two years we were really close to being there but we didn’t make it,” Jabusch said. “I’m really hoping that we make it and that we do well in the first round because I’m wanting this year to be the best year ever.”
Panther Creek wins first title
The Catamounts had been knocking on the door of the Tri-Nine team title for the last two years. But Panther Creek finally got its first conference title with a 6-3 win that completed a season sweep of Green Hope in the season finale Thursday.
PC’s outright conference title ends a five-year reign of Green Hope, which had won 82 straight conference matches before the Catamounts won the first meeting. Coach Nathaniel Blalock’s Catamounts had finished runner-up in each of the previous two seasons to Green Hope, with the only Tri-Nine losses coming to the Falcons.
Conference tournament play begins
The Cary Tennis Center is hosting the individual Tri-Nine Conference tournament Tuesday and Wednesday, with start times to be determined.
Panther Creek’s Megan Smith is the defending conference singles champion, but the only player in the league to advance past regional play in singles is Cary’s Jamie Rogers. Rogers, a junior, made it to the state quarterfinals as a freshman.
Only Green Hope’s Priyanka Srinivas is back from last year’s winning doubles team as Helen Wang graduated.
Blake: 919-460-2606 or twitter.com/JMBpreps