Improvement has always been the Panther Creek girls’ tennis team’s goal, not perfection.
So when the Catamounts dropped their first individual match of the season after winning six team contests with a 9-0 score, they shrugged their shoulders.
“Nobody’s perfect,” Panther Creek coach Nathaniel Blalock said after his team beat Southwest Wake Athletic Conference rival Green Hope 8-1 Wednesday at Cary Tennis Park.
Panther Creek (7-0, 6-0 SWAC) swept the three doubles matches before winning five in a row in singles. The last match was at No. 3, and both teams gathered around the fence to watch the Falcons’ Jurasia Horvat knock off Orla LaBiche 6-3, 6-4.
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“They’re a good opponent, and things happen,” said Panther Creek captain Sammi Smith, who won at No. 1 singles and doubles (with Jordan Strickland). “She played well, (but) she just came up a little short at the end. We played our best, and that’s all you can really do.”
Green Hope first-year coach Pam Gilbert was happy to get the individual win, but she, too, is looking for improvement. Gilbert knows her Falcons (7-3, 6-1) will get at least one more shot at Panther Creek this year, with perhaps another date in the state tournament.
“We want to get back to playing these guys in the semis of states here,” Gilbert said. “That’s kind of our goal. We feel like that’s where it’s going to be.
“We just have to continue to get better. A month ago, we weren’t this consistent, and I think we’re going to be better in a month.”
Blalock has tried to instill a similar attitude in his team, and his players have bought into the approach. Panther Creek won the state 4A title a year ago – with LaBiche winning the clinching match – and are the favorite to do it again, losing only one starter from that team.
But there’s no pressure, Smith said.
“It’s all in the back of our minds,” Smith said. “But we’re just trying to play the best we can and see what happens. We just want to do the best we can, to be honest. If that’s winning conference, winning whatever or not winning, we just want to do our best.”
Even after beating a good Green Hope team, Blalock said his squad “still (has) a lot of areas to improve.”
“We’ve got a group of really dedicated girls,” Blalock said. “They’re dedicated on the court, and more importantly, off the court. But they want to be the best player on the court every time they step out there, from No. 1 to No. 12. That speaks volumes, not only to their dedication to playing the game but playing for their school. That’s a point of pride for us.”