It seems like the more things change for Chapel Hill and East Chapel Hill tennis, the more they stay the same. Or maybe even get a little better.
Both programs are showing early in the season that they’ll be contenders for their respective conference titles, if not something more.
Nothing is ever guaranteed in sporting contests, but some things, like the Wildcats’ success in the PAC-6, seem about as regular as the moon and the tides.
Things could be tougher for East with Cardinal Gibbons being added to the PAC-6 mix. The Crusaders have won three of the past five N.C. High School team championships, including 2013 and 2014.
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East Chapel Hill is no slouch. The Wildcats won back to back titles in 2007-08 and have won a conference championship every year since the school opened.
“There’s not much doubt Cardinal Gibbons will make it tougher this year,” East Chapel Hill coach Nick Walker said Wednesday.
Nonetheless, East Chapel Hill (4-0) showed last week that the PAC-6 is at best a two-team race. Two days after the Wildcats beat over-matched Hillside 9-0, East Chapel Hill went to Durham Jordan – probably the third best team in the conference behind East and Gibbons –and swept the Falcons without giving up a set. And that was without its erstwhile No. 1 Victoria Jones, a sophomore who’s nursing an ankle injury.
Chapel Hill performed much the same last week. The Tigers improved to 3-0 with a 7-2 win at Pinecrest and then an 8-1 blowout of PAC-6 member Roxboro Person.
What’s unusual about both teams this year is their balance of under- and upperclassmen, with a ninth-grader at No. 1. Savannah Bright is at No.1 for East and Carolina Coch is No. 1 for Chapel Hill. (This makes Carrboro sophomore Jesse Ille the most veteran of No. 1s in the district.)
Bright took little time in winning 6-0, 6-0 Wednesday at Jordan.
“You can learn something from every match,” Bright said. But so far, she’s more concerned about learning about East Chapel Hill. “As a freshman, I really want to get better acquainted with my teammates.”
East gave up 11 games total Wednesday in singles. Iskra Joksimovic won 6-1, 6-2 at No. 2; teammates Jocelyn Reckford at No. 3, Madison Lewis at No. 4, Isabel Green at No. 5 and Cassidy Bright each gave up just two games in their wins.
Reckford and Lewis won 8-0 at No. 1 doubles, and Bright sisters won 8-0 at No. 2. Joksimovic and Green went to 8-3 for their win.
Joksimovic, the lone junior in East’s lineup, said the Wildcats try to maintain their intensity, no matter who’s the opponent. She cited former coach Lindsey Linker’s mantra that players needed to focus on each point, each match.
“Just try to win, whatever is in front of you,” she said. “Win your match, win your conference, win in the playoffs.”
Tigers roll to 3-0
Chapel Hill had a more challenging time with Pinecrest, a 4A playoff team last year, and battled through three tiebreakers to secure the team win. Pinecrest’s Emma Gentry Landry – who reached last year’s championship round of the state high school tournament – had a hand in wins at No. 1 singles and No. 2 doubles for the Patriots. But it was all Tigers from from there on.
Chapel Hill’s Gabriel Chew, Hailey Polsky and Joy Stouffer each won third-set tiebreakers, and Gabby Kmiec and Ellen Yu won in straight sets, as Chapel Hill locked up the team win early.
Person fared worse against the Tigers, as Coch, Kmiec, Chew, Polsky, Emily Molina and Rachel Thomas each won a pro-set match to decide the team win before doubles.
Carrboro splits with 4A, 3A teams
Carrboro hasn’t lost a regular-season match to a 2A opponent in more than a year, but 4A Durham Riverside, one of the rare teams that can challenge East Chapel Hill in the PAC-6, got the better of the Jaguars last week with a 5-4 decision on Aug. 25.
Carrboro bounced back two days with little trouble against 3A Cedar Ridge, winning 9-0. Jesse Ille, Abby Rader, Ermine Arcasoy, Anna Kemper, Rachel McGowan and Emily Easthom all won their singles matches in straight sets – losing just three of the 27 games contested – to decide the team match before doubles could be played.
Chapel Hill and East Chapel Hill meet in one the season’s most anticipated team matches at 4:30 p.m. Thursday on the Tigers’ home courts.
Before that, Chapel Hill jumps into a busy week and begins its conference schedule on Monday when it travels to Northwood for a 4:30 p.m. start, and then hosts a 4:30 p.m. match Wednesday against Big 8 opponent Oxford Webb.
East Chapel Hill hosts Person at 4:30 p.m. Monday and travels to Ravenscroft for a 4:30 p.m. match Tuesday before playing at Chapel Hill on Thursday.
Carrboro gets into Mid-State Conference action on Monday at 4:30 p.m. at Bartlett Yancey and plays at 4A Durham Riverside at 4 p.m. Thursday.
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