Panther Creek girls’ tennis wins 4A state championship

mblake@newsobserver.comNovember 2, 2013 

— After posing for photos and having one final talk as a team, the Panther Creek girls’ tennis team got a walk-through of how they were going to be honored during next week’s football games.

That kind of planning hasn’t been done before at Panther Creek.

For the first time in school history, the Catamounts have a N.C. High School Athletic Association team championship.

Panther Creek took the 4A girls’ tennis championship and needed only singles to beat Charlotte Ardrey Kell 5-1 Saturday at the Burlington Tennis Center.

“We didn’t really know anything about Ardrey Kell coming into the match so I think everybody needed a little time to adjust and figure out what game we needed to play against each opponent in singles,” Panther Creek coach Nathaniel Blalock said.

Sophomore Sammi Smith finished first, winning No. 2 singles 6-1, 6-1. Quickly following her was classmate Jordan Strickland at No. 3 (6-0, 6-1).

It took a little time, but No. 1 Megan Smith pulled out the Catamounts’ third win of the match. After winning the first set 6-2, Megan Smith fell in the second set 3-6. She won the short tiebreaker set 10-7 to claim the win.

“My wrist was really bothering me in the second set,” Megan Smith said. “And then in the tiebreaker I pushed through and did what I needed to do to win.”

When Megan Smith walked to the other courts, she didn’t have to wait long to see freshman Aishani Tingare pull out a 6-2, 6-1 win.

Panther Creek led 4-1 after Ardrey Kell took a 6-1, 7-5 win against Panther Creek No. 6 singles player Loren Kim.

It came down to No. 3 Orla LaBiche’s match.

Down 5-3 in the first set, LaBiche rallied to win 7-6, 6-3.

“I knew I had the ability to win, but I had to put it all together,” LaBiche said. “Little things bothered me (at first), but I’m not going to win like that. So I needed to calm myself down.”

Panther Creek (21-1) could get used to its perch at the top of the state. The Catamounts, which upended Broughton in the third round of the playoffs on Monday – the first time in at least 18 years where Broughton did not reach the East final – will only graduate Megan Smith from this year’s lineup.

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

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