DURHAM — The N.C. School of Science and Math rarely even gets its hair mussed when dispatching area tennis opponents.
Playing in the not-exactly-challenging 2A Northern Carolina Conference, the Unicorns breezed through their regular season at 13-0 losing just one individual match the entire season.
For an encore, they zipped through the first three rounds of the N.C. High School Athletics Association 2A dual-team playoffs, winning 6-0, 6-0, 6-0.
So when undefeated Carrboro forced Science and Math into doubles play before the Unicorns could finally put away the state semifinals match 5-2 on Wednesday, the Jaguars caught their attention.
We knew this was the match we had to win to get back to the state finals, NCSSM coach Richard McClenny said. Our conference wasnt all that tough, and we knew Carrboro would fight us.
Carrboro (16-1), which lost to Greene Central in last years 2A semifinal, likewise knew what it was facing in N.C. Science and Math (17-0). A program composed entirely of juniors and seniors who applied to the specialized school, NCSSM won 1A state championships in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, and played in two more state finals (2011-12) before moving up to 2A this year.
Our girls did fantastic; we cant complain, Carrboro coach Jon Noyes said. We dont have a senior on the team, so hopefully well beat them next time. Im sure well see them again.
NCSSMs Gabrielle Beaudry, Rebecca Liu, Anna Xu and Rachel Xu all won in straight sets at Durhams Whippoorwill Park.
Carrboros undefeated Abby Rader (12-0) helped push the match into doubles by winning 6-0, 6-2 over Jesse Huang (12-2) at No. 3 singles.
Carrboros Danielle Sawyer provided the guttiest performance of the evening as she rallied from a first-set disaster to win 1-6, 6-3, 10-8 at No. 1 singles, giving Science & Maths Lydia Yuan (13-1) her first loss of the year.
Sawyer was down 3-0 in the third-set tiebreaker before she served to tie it at 5. She never trailed after that, and when she hit a backhand winner past Yuan for a 9-8 lead, she allowed herself a little fist pump and a soft Yah!
Thats the most emotion Ive seen her show, Noyes said.
Yuan had no trouble shrugging off the singles loss. She and teammate Rebecca Liu were up 9-2 at No. 2 doubles when sisters Anna and Rachel Xu clinched the team match with their 10-0 victory at No. 3 doubles. Beaudry and Huang were up 5-4 at No. 1 doubles when the match ended.
N.C. Science and Maths reward for Wednesdays win is a first trip to the 2A state championship final Saturday, where the Unicorns will face either two-time defending champion Salisbury (16-3) or Lake Norman Charter (18-1).