Panther Creek girls' tennis stops Broughton's reign

mblake@newsobserver.comOctober 28, 2013 

— Panther Creek ended the reign of one of the most storied programs of any sport in the state. The Catamounts’ girls’ tennis team (19-1) upended Broughton 5-3 in the fourth round of the playoffs on Monday night.

Broughton had made every N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A East final for at least 18 years. The 11-time champion Caps are 111-2 in the past five seasons and their state championship appearance streak ends at four.

Now, it’s Panther Creek’s turn.

“Before we got off the bus, I told them that the question for today was ‘What do you believe? And if you believe that you’re the better team, then we’re going to get the win,’” Catamounts coach Nathaniel Blalock said. “They proved what they believe today.”

The teams were tied 3-all after the singles matches.

Broughtons’ Maggie Kane, the 4A state runner-up in singles and 2012 champ, defeated Megan Smith 6-1, 6-0 at No. 1.

Broughton’s other wins came in of a third-set tiebreaker win by No. 5 Ann Taylor Hinton 6-2, 6-7 (7-5), 10-3 against Panther Creek’s Aishani Tingare and a 6-3, 6-1 win by No. 6 Hunter Cox against Loren Kim.

Panther Creek picked up the first two singles wins by No. 2 Sammi Smith (6-1, 6-0 against Kara Summerford) and No. 4 Orla LaBiche (6-2, 6-0 against Adrienne Overcash).

The Catamounts also got a third-set tiebreaker win, as No. 3 Jordan Strickland won 6-4, 6-7 (8-6) and 10-4 against Olivia King.

“I was a little frustrated having lost the second set in a tiebreaker, but I just had to calm myself down and go through each point to get to the end of the match,” Strickland said.

It came down to doubles, and with the state champions (Strickland and Sammi Smith) on Panther Creek’s side, the Catamounts were feeling good. Panther Creek had taken two of three doubles in the regular-season 5-4 loss to Broughton (20-1).

During doubles, with Panther Creek leading in all three matches, the courts got too dark and the location moved to the Carolina Country Club where there are lights. Megan Smith and LaBiche won 10-2 against Overcash and King.

“Orla and I like to play aggressive, and most of the time when we play aggressive it works for us,” Megan Smith said.

A few minutes later, Strickland and Sammi Smith finished the win with a 10-5 victory against Kane and Summerford.

Broughton coach Laura Davidson said, “It was a great run. We knew Panther Creek was just as good as we were,” Davidson said. “It’s not that we played bad, they played just a little bit better. I thought we played great tennis.”

“They’ve been just a joy to coach.”

Panther Creek will play conference rival Green Hope in Wednesday’s 4A East final, likely at the Cary Tennis Center, which is the home court for both teams. Panther Creek won both regular-season matches 8-1.

Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps

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