CARY — For Panther Creek's young, but talented tennis team this could just be the beginning of a very successful run.
The Catamounts, with four freshmen at the top of the order, blasted East Chapel Hill 5-1 Tuesday afternoon in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4-A dual team playoffs.
Panther Creek (19-1) will play again early next week, hosting Broughton which handed the Catamounts their only loss.
East Chapel Hill, which won the PAC Six, was also a rematch from the regular season. Panther Creek, which went 16-0 in the Tri-NIne, edged the Wildcats 5-4 the first time.
The win Tuesday also came with junior Megan Smith, the team's usual No. 1 player, on the sidelines with an injury. She hopes to play Friday in the state individual singles playoffs, according to Catamounts coach Nathaniel Blalock.
With Megan Smith out, her younger sister freshman Sammi Smith played No. 1 and freshmen Jordan Strickland, Orla Labiche, and Loren Kim filled the top spots. All four won their matches in straight sets.
East's Julia Gan won at No. 5, but junior Katie Ryan took a 6-1, 6-2 win at No. 6.
"Megan lost in the other match against East Chapel Hill and I know she was disappointed at not getting to play, but today we played like the team we have, the team we are. It was good to see us come alive," Blalock said. "This team is getting better every match and we only lose one senior out of out top seven so I'm hoping we can only get better.
"All the way down the lineup, they all played well today, Loren Kim played well at No. 4 singles and Orla was the last off the court [with the clinching match] and she was definitely tested. Jordan Strickland was down in her match early, but came back to win the set," Blalock added.
Sammi Smith and Jordan Strickland, who are still alive as a doubles team in the state individual tournament, are excited about their futures at Panther Creek.
"We really like having a group of freshmen playing together like this," Smith said. "We've known each other and played together for a long time so we have good team chemistry. It's really lucky that we all live in the Panther Creek district. Plus next year we'll be getting a couple of other good freshmen so we could really have a good team for the next year or more."
East coach Ann Booterbaugh knew her team lost to a good opponent.
"We came ready, expecting a tough match. We knew we had to play well. They gave 100 percent and that's all they could do. I'm proud of them," Booterbaugh said.