To the surprise of no one that’s followed Southwest Wake Athletic Conference girls tennis over the last few years, the individual conference tournament was dominated by the Catamounts and Falcons.
Having combined to win all of the last 10 SWAC team titles, Panther Creek and Green Hope have also racked up a sizable collection of doubles and singles titles with only a few blips along the way.
On Wednesday, Panther Creek senior Amanda Cyr repeated her singles title, defeating freshman teammate Bella Steffen 6-3 6-3.
Green Hope sophomore Cynthia Xiao and freshman Anna Rico took the doubles title over Panther Creek senior Aishani Tingare and sophomore Melody Zhang 7-6, 6-2.
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Cyr, the 4A singles runner-up last year, came out on top in what might be called “the year of the freshmen” as a talented crop of newcomers bolstered Green Hope and Panther Creek’s lineup.
One of those was her teammate, Steffen.
It was the second straight year Cyr had to beat a teammate for the SWAC title, defeating now-graduated Orla LaBiche last season. Cyr said it was important to stay focused but not outwardly show the same fire that she might for another opponent.
“I was trying not to show my emotions too much because she’s my teammate,” Cyr said.
Cyr’s aim is to win the state championship but knows she’ll have to take every match seriously along the way.
“I really want to win a state title this year. I think I have a good chance, but of course there’s so many more great players,” Cyr said. “I think if I stay focused I can get there.”
Regional qualifiers (in order of seed): Cyr; Steffens; Green Hope’s Katie Andreini; Green Hope’s Ana Horvat; Middle Creek’s Jenna Stachowiak; Apex Friendship’s Grace Schmonsees.
Rico and Xiao had only played doubles together once this season entering the tournament, but have a lot of experience playing alongside each other in year-round tennis.
The two have the perfect chemistry for doubles.
Rico stays at the net whenever possible – “Anna’s really good at the net, so I just try to set up a good forehand or backhand and let Anna poach,” Xiao said – while Xiao patrols the baseline.
“She’s really strong at the baseline so I can try to hit volleys,” Rico said of Xiao.
Regional qualifiers (in order of seed): Xiao and Rico; Tingare and Zhang; Green Hope’s Sophia Gray and Reilly Major; Apex’s Elizabeth Johnson and Sloan Smith; Panther Creek’s Leann Blanc and Halle Fernstrom; Athens Drive’s Kristen Smedley and Irena Brain.
Due to the flooding across the eastern half of the state, the N.C. High School Athletic Association pushed back reporting dates for individual tennis playoffs and the entire schedule of the dual-team playoffs.
Green Hope, Panther Creek and Apex will have all of next week without a game – though Apex does have a rainout with Holly Springs still to play – before starting the dual-team playoffs on Oct. 25.
The second round is now Tuesday, Nov. 1, the third round Thursday, Nov. 3 and the East final Wednesday Nov. 9 with the championship Saturday Nov. 12 at the Burlington Tennis Center.