CLAYTON — The Greater Neuse River 4A Conference crowned a trio of new girls tennis champions on Thursday. Both the singles champ – Allison Powers of West Johnston – and the doubles duo – Clayton’s Elezcia Singletary and Logan Boykin – survived tough matches to pick up their titles.
Powers beat Smithfield-Selma’s Elizabeth Carter, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 in the pair’s grudge match for the season. The two split their regular-season matches.
“Playing Elizabeth makes me a better player,” Powers said. “When you play her, you’re going to have to work. She’s someone who’s a good player but doesn’t give up any points without making you work for it.”
Their championship match featured a pair of break-filled first two sets. Powers broke to open the match, then Carter grabbed that break back, then another in building a 4-1 lead. Down 5-2 later in the first set, Powers countered with her second break of the match to get within 5-4.
And at 6-5, Carter grabbed that break right back to take the opening set, 7-5.
Powers’ returned the favor to Carter in the second set, going up a break in the set’s first game, then taking two more breaks of serve for a relatively easy 6-1 set decision.
The third set saw both players stay on serve through the first five games with Powers up 3-2. In the tight sixth game, the West standout won a long point with a winning volley at the net and registered a smash finish to take the deciding break for a 4-2 lead.
“That slam is one I’ll remember, because it’s not something I normally do,” Powers said.
Powers didn’t lose another game in the match. “I just didn’t breakdown when I was down,” she said of her championship match. “After the first two sets, I felt more relaxed in the third set. It was like those first two sets just let my nerves go. Winning this means a lot. I’ve never gotten this far in singles. I went to regionals last year in doubles, but this is different.”
Carter, whose only regular-season league loss came to Powers, had a lengthy day of tennis with more than five hours of on-court action. Her 7-6, 0-6, 6-2 semifinal win over Claytons’ Maya Guha took nearly three hours to complete, including a first set that went 90 minutes.
Maya Guha would go onto finish third in the conference, downing Smithfield-Selma’s Christina Lee, 6-1, 6-0, in the consolation match.
Garner’s Sarah Hamlin will join the top-four GNRC singles finishers at regionals. She placed fifth, earning the final individual state bid with a 6-4, 6-0 win over Clayton’s Joy Guha.
Boykin and Singletary ended the two-year championship reign of Garner’s Hannah Hamlin and Ashleigh Robb in the doubles final with a 6-1, 7-5 victory.
The Comet duo took the first set with relative ease, but fell behind 4-1 in the second set. That’s when they got things back together.
“We eliminated some of the mistakes we were making and started working more as a team,” Boykin said. “That allowed us to get our confidence back and keep our focus on winning.”
Boykin and Singletary, who said the Comets’ tandem just kind of got mad at themselves with the slow start in the second set, went onto win six of the next seven games in the match and walked away with championship trophies.
“After we started playing better, this was really something we wanted to do,” Boykin said of winning the conference championship. “We just tried to start playing more consistently, up to our capabilities.”
The top-two teams will be joined for individual regionals this weekend in Fayetteville by East Wake’s Alexis Montague and Sierra Blackley, Smithfield-Selma’s Laura Oldham and Anna Grubbs and Clayton’s Caitlin Wood and Katherine Riley.
Montague and Blackley beat Oldham and Grubbs, 7-6, 6-4 for the No. 3 regional seeding, while Wood and Riley will be seeded fifth after a qualifier match win over Garner’s Nicole Root and Mandisa Ebri, 6-2, 6-4.
Clayton, Garner and Smithfield-Selma all will play in this week’s NCHSAA dual team playoffs. The Comets, winners of 50 straight dual league matches, are the No. 1 playoff seed, while Garner won a coin flip with SSS for the No. 2 seed. The Spartans qualified as a wild card.