Sophomores dominate all-Wake County state championship tennis matches

cgrant@newsobserver.comOctober 26, 2013 

— By the time the individual girls tennis championship matchups were set Saturday, it was clear that both titles would remain in Wake County – the singles in Raleigh and the doubles in Cary.

Defending doubles champions Sammi Smith and Jordan Strickland, both sophomores, of Panther Creek defended their title against Cary seniors Jamie Rogers and Hannah Jabusch, while Wakefield sophomore Susanne Boyden unseated the defending singles champion, Broughton senior Maggie Kane, in the NCHSAA 4A championship at Millbrook Exchange Club.

Both title winners beat the same opponents a week earlier in the regional finals, with all of the semifinalists qualifying for the state tournament. The Mideast region dominated the first day of the state tournament Friday, sending the county into Saturday’s matches as an overwhelming favorite, accounting for seven of eight semifinals qualifiers.

But the rivalries between these opponents stretched back before the playoffs began. Both state championship matchups were rematches of conference tournament finals played earlier this month.

Boyden beat Kane for the Cap Eight singles title, but despite having already defeated Kane three times this season, Boyden said she wasn’t overly confident heading into Saturday’s match.

“I was really nervous coming into today,” Boyden said. “She’s a great player, so I have to take every point one at a time ... she was ahead in the first set, so she had that match, too, so I was lucky to win that.”

Down 5-3 at one point, Boyden surged to take the first set 7-5. She won the second 6-2.

“I just won the big points,” she said. “I just took one point at a time and eventually I caught up. Once I caught up, it just really gave me confidence.”

Boyden didn’t have an easy road to the final match, splitting sets with West Forsyth freshman Chelsea Sawyer in the semifinals. She knows defending her title will be no simple task next year with so many talented players in the field.

Kane will get Sunday off before taking the court again as Broughton hosts Panther Creek in the third round of the dual-team tournament Monday. The Caps are defending 4A team champions.

“The team is why I play high school tennis, so that’s what I put first and foremost,” Kane said. “I’m really going to focus for Monday and try to be ready.”

Panther Creek sophomores Smith and Strickland will also need to rest up for that match. The two-time state doubles champions hope to help the Catamounts win a team title this year.

The duo had a test Saturday, taking the first set 6-3 before Cary’s Jabusch and Rogers dominated the second 6-1, forcing a third set. The defending champions pulled it out, 6-2.

“We knew it would be a hard match and it could go either way,” Smith said. “Thankfully, it went our way.”

Rogers and Jabusch hoped they could accomplish a repeat of the SWAC championship, when they topped Smith/Strickland for the conference doubles title.

“It did give us some confidence because we knew we could beat them,” Jabusch said. “We knew that we had the ability to beat them all along, they just pulled it out today. They played great.”

It was the first time Jabusch and Rogers made it to the state championship, so while the seniors would have liked to have ended their high school careers as state champions, getting to the final match was still quite the achievement.

“This was great,” Rogers said. “Making it this far is just as good.”

Grant: 919-829-4538

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