In the last week of the regular season, Apex looks like it’s going to accomplish one of its major girls tennis goals: finish third in the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference and earn a wild-card spot in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs.
The Cougars’ 9-0 victory at Fuquay-Varina leaves them just two matches left on the year. The tennis playoffs have changed from the predetermined brackets to seeding, which all but locks in Apex should it win out. At-large bids are done by win-loss percentage, like the NFL wild-cards, rather than an NCAA-like selection committee.
Apex (10-4, 10-4) has put itself to earn another trip to the postseason by taking care of business in its SWAC schedule. The closest wins were 6-3 decisions against Athens Drive and Middle Creek.
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Fuquay-Varina coach Marshall Wortham knows just how good the Cougars have been.
“Apex could probably be the champion of a lot of conferences in the state,” Wortham said.
Apex will get that chance next year in a new conference – with new tennis courts, as the school moves to Green Level High campus – but with a new-look team. The Cougars have seniors leading this year’s lineup with No. 1 Elizabeth Johnson, No. 2 Sloan Smith, No. 3 Sarah Martin and No. 4 Sneha Senthilkumar.
Sophomores Erica Hwang, Reilly Murphy and Kylie Griep as well as junior Emily Lowe are coming up big at the bottom seeds this year. They’ll be relied on even more next year, but for now Apex coach Lynn Thomas will focus on the postseason her team just earned.
“We’ll worry about that next year adn see what new freshmen come up,” Apex coach Lynn Thomas said.
Fuquay-Varina (4-11, 4-11) appears heading for a tie with Athens Drive for sixth-place in the league.
“It’s been successful on our terms. All I ask the girls is to be competitive and play hard. The SWAC is just so brutal, that’s all you can ask. Get wins where you can” Wortham said.
Fuquay-Varina will have much turnover next year after losing its top seven: No. 1 Aysha Diallo, No. 2 Anna Braxton No. 3 Adelle Schubarg, No. 4 Savannah Durham, No. 5 Claire Biddix, No. 6 Grace Ward and Leila Abu-Hassan.
“(Diallo and Braxton) have been three-year starters for me and have led the team ever since they’ve been here. They’ve laid the pathway for other teams to follow,” Wortham said.
Sophomores Morgyn Lynden and Mackenzie Mendler played some this year, but only one doubles match and never more than once apice at higher than No. 6 singles.
Wortham is looking forward to what he hopes is more competitive balance from top-to-bottom in next year’s conference. The SWAC loses No. 1 Green Hope, No. 2 Panther Creek as well as Cary and Athens Drive, but adds Garner and, after the first season, a new South Garner High.