CARY — Conference champions are often asked to pose with their newly-awarded trophies, and that was the case Wednesday at the Tri-9 individual girls’ tennis tournament. While facing the camera and holding their respective plaques, the expressions of this year’s champions held the reasons why they were able to be tops in their league.
Cary’s Jamie Rogers waited unnerved, her face serene, for the camera to raise so she could crack a smile. And it was her fortitude in her season’s biggest match that helped her coolly put away Panther Creek’s Megan Smith – the only player to beat Rogers this season – by a 6-3, 6-1 score in the singles championship.
Panther Creek freshmen Jordan Strickland and Sammi Smith were brimming with excitement, their eyes darting back and forth at each other. Their enthusiasm and communication keyed their run to the doubles championship, a 6-1, 6-1 defeat of Green Hope’s Brantley Belk and Jurasia Horvat.
Rogers gets her goal
Her freshman year, she was denied by the eventual 4A state champion. She missed last year with a broken foot.
But on Wednesday, Jamie Rogers follows in the footsteps of her older sister Ashley, who won the 2005 and 2004 conference tournaments at Cary, with one of her own. It was one of the goals Rogers set for herself entering the year.
Smith defeated Rogers 7-6, 6-0 a few weeks ago, just the fourth singles loss in Rogers’ two seasons of high school tennis. But Rogers had confidence that she would correct her mistakes – and it started with clearing her mind.
“Last time, I was a wreck mentally,” Rogers said. “I knew I could do it. I had to prepare for the match – not physically, because I know what I can do – it’s just mentally, mostly not being negative.”
Cary coach Janet Trotter was proud of how Rogers has played since only returning to the courts in March.
“She’s battled back. Even today, she still has troubles with that ankle and she played through,” Trotter said. “I’ve seen just a determination to get here and to win this.”
PC’s freshman win doubles
Strickland and Sammi Smith didn’t have a set goal entering this year. The ninth-graders didn’t know what to expect.
They hope to have an impact on the program, but they wound up being a part of program history – twice. After the Catamounts won the first tennis conference title in school history this season, the duo became the school’s first conference doubles champions.
Panther Creek coach Nathaniel Blalock credited Strickland and Smith’s positivity, which extends off the court. The two friends support one another in the tough points.
“We’ve known each other for seven years,” Strickland said. Smith, the younger sister of Megan, finished Strickland’s thought for her: “We have that chemistry.”
Six singles players and six doubles pairings qualified for next week’s 4A individual tennis regional competiton.
All semifinalists are included, and two other matches are played in both singles and doubles to determine who takes the last two spots.
Panther Creek had all six of its players advance to regionals, with Orla Labiche advancing in singles on the backdraw and Brooke Namboodri and Katie Ryan finishing as doubles semifinalists.
Green Hope and Cary will send four each. Green Hope’s Audrey Channell and Kharena Zhang were each singles semifinalists, while Cary’s Hannah Jabusch advaned on the backdraw.
Holly Springs’ Morgan Sredl and Kristen Flanagan advanced in the doubles backdraw, as did Cary’s Paulina Powierza and Anu Warrier.
Apex’s Andi Johnson and Carla Thomas advanced as doubles semifinalists.
Blake: 919-460-2606 or twitter.com/JMBpreps