Middle Creek freshman Jenna Stachowiak – whose big brother Nick won the 2013 NCHSAA 4A state boys singles tennis title – made her Southwest Wake Athletic Conference girls tennis debut with a sweep.
Stachowiak won at No. 1 singles and doubles, although Apex won the team score 6-3 Wednesday in a match that may go a long way to decide third place in a conference dominated by defending state champion Panther Creek and traditional power Green Hope.
Stachowiak teamed with senior Shaye McAuliffe to win No. 1 doubles 9-7 over Apex junior Melissa Romano and senior Carla Thomas in a match lasting 1 hour, 35 minutes. Then Stachowiak and Romano battled 1:48 at No. 1 singles before Stachowiak survived to win a third-set tiebreaker 6-2, 6-7, 10-7.
“It was important to me to win my first conference match,” Stachowiak said. “I had to dig down.”
The combined 3 hours and 23 minutes the pair dueled is equal to a typical double-header in high school tennis. Stachowiak was tired at the end, but that had to do with tight competition and the 90-degree heat. She wasn’t drained from the pressure living up to her big brothers, Nick and Matt, who was a state qualifier in his playing days at Middle Creek.
“(Nick) is at another level,” Jenna said, “but he’s always there to support me.”
Added Middle Creek coach Rhonda Blanchard: “Nick has been a very supportive big brother, and she has accepted that she is known as Nick’s little sister.”
Apex didn’t allow Stachowiak to dominate by winning two of the three doubles matches for a 2-0 lead and taking the first three singles matches to score the match-clinching fifth point while Nos. 1, No. 2 and No. 6 singles were still contested.
The match was Apex’s season opener, while Middle Creek split two non-conference matches before the conference opener against the Cougars. Apex coach Lynn Thomas said it was too early to talk about league standings.
“Our strategy was to take our time and not go for too many shots,” Thomas said. “I wanted them to get into match play for the season.”
In singles, Apex’s points came from No. 3 Natalie Melech, No. 5. Sydney Oyler and No. 6 Audrey Sung. The doubles points came from Melech and Elizabeth Johnson at No. 2 and Oyler and Sung at No. 3.
Middle Creek’s third point came from McAuliffe at No. 2 singles, 6-2, 6-1.