Panther Creek has a lot to look forward to this girls tennis season.
The Catamounts (21-1) won the school’s first N.C. High School Athletic Association state championship last fall, knocking off the state’s top program (Broughton) along the way.
Panther Creek loses its No. 1 singles player but is still in great position.
Back-to-back 4A doubles champions Sammi Smith and Jordan Strickland return. Smith and Jordan, both juniors, had 14-1 and 16-2 records in singles. Their loss in the conference championship last year was their first as doubles partners.
Smith has overtaken 4A singles champ Susanne Boyden of Wakefield as No. 1 in the state on the junior circuit.
Also returning are last year’s Nos. 4-6 singles players; junior Orla LaBiche, sophomore No. 5 Aishani Tingare and No. 6 junior Loren Kim.
Green Hope (16-5) reached the 4A semifinals before losing to Panther Creek. The Falcons lose their No. 4 and No. 6 singles players as well as their coach from a year ago.
New coach Pam Gilbert takes over a Falcons program that includes junior Karena Zhang, the team’s No. 1 in singles followed by senior Jurasia Horvat, junior Sara Ackerson and junior Ellie Ackerson among returners.
Cary (10-6) was third in the SWAC last year but loses its top three – including the SWAC doubles champions who are now playing in college.
Apex (9-5) was close behind and should be improved with the return of regional qualifying doubles team Carla Thomas, a senior, and sophomore Elizabeth Johnson.
Middle Creek (6-8) returns regional qualifier Shaye McAuliffe, a senior, as well as No. 2 singles player Alex Phillips. Freshman Jenna Stachowiak is the younger sister of the school’s 4A state champion Nick.
Athens Drive (3-11) had no seniors last year. Fuquay-Varina (2-12), which won its match since the 2011 season last year, was similarly young.
Holly Springs (1-14), whose only win came against Fuquay, will be led by senior Kimberly Lavacca.