A matchup between two teams that each reached their state championship match a year ago fittingly went to a tiebreak in the final game.
Cary Academy, the runner-up in NCISAA 3A in 2014, got the 5-4 victory over defending 2A state champs St. David’s when Madeline McElveen won her tiebreak 10-7 over Hannah Mallard on Wednesday night at Raleigh Racquet Club.
The Chargers (9-4) trailed 4-2 but won at No. 2, 4 and 5 singles to get the victory in a match that lasted more than three hours.
“It just showed the resolve of this team and these girls,” Cary Academy coach Styrling Strother said. “They fight every point. I reminded all those girls who were close in every match that it’s all about staying in the moment and not looking at the point they just won or lost. Just fight it out and play your game – they just did it.”
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The Warriors (5-2), gunning for their fourth consecutive state title in girls’ tennis, nearly pulled off the victory against a higher classified team.
“It could’ve easily gone 5-4 the other way today,” St. David’s coach Jennifer Crowder said.
Trailing 4-2 after three singles matches, Cary Academy kicked off its comeback when Taylor Timinskas beat Alice Holding 6-4, 6-3 at No. 2.
They said it
“It’s an awesome feeling to be able to win as a team,” said McElveen, the lone senior on either team. “I feel like that’s more important than just an individual win. I was very proud of our team overall. Can’t wait to see what we do the rest of the season.”
Three who mattered
Madeline McElveen, Cary Academy: When the pressure was on, McElveen played some of her best tennis to win 6-4, 3-6, 10-7 and clinch the Charger victory.
“I tried not to think about it. I just thought, ‘Hit the ball over and in the court and run and get hers back.’ I played like that and it worked out.”
Her co-captain, Ellie Johnson, was impressed: “She figured out she was the deciding match, and I thought she handled it really well and played good, solid tennis in the tiebreak.”
Ellie Johnson, Cary Academy: The No. 12 ranked player in the state won her No. 1 singles match 6-1, 7-5 against a talented Beatrice Holding and teamed with Timinskas to win at No. 1 doubles 8-5.
Lindsey Munster, St. David’s: She’s the only upperclassman on a young Warrior team, and she gave her team a 4-2 lead in the match with a 6-3, 6-1 win at No. 3 singles.
Both teams are extraordinarily young. CA had two sophomores and two freshmen in the lineup, while St. David’s played three sophomores and two freshmen in the top six.
That’s not unusual for the Warriors, who continue to be a 2A powerhouse despite all the youth. Sophomore Beatrice Holding is one of the top-ranked players in the state, and her younger sister Alice, a freshman, won at No. 2 doubles with sophomore Brinkley Thompson on Wednesday.
But the Warriors have talent throughout the lineup and have benefited from playing tough completion like Cardinal Gibbons and CA. A fourth state title would be a good bet.
“That’s the goal,” Crowder said. “I think it looks good. We get out there and play all the 3A schools that give us good competition. If we lose some matches along the way, that’s fine, because we’d rather have the better competition. It looks good, and I feel good about it.”
The Chargers graduated five seniors from the state runner-up team, but Wednesday’s match was a confidence-builder for Strother’s young team.
“This match was very crucial for us,” Strother said. “We came off a win yesterday against DA, but St. David’s is a very, very tough team, and they were a tough matchup The experience of winning close matches is going to give us more confidence as a team and individually.
“We’ll be able to feed off of this, remind ourselves of this win and how we stayed in it when the pressure was there. It’s definitely going to help us in the future.”