The final score reads Cary Academy lost 5-1 to Charlotte Country Day Saturday in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A girls tennis team final.
But that one-sided score obscures how close the Chargers’ young lineup came to staging a remarkable comeback in a lengthy match at the James R. Nisbet Tennis Center on the Campbell University campus.
“We got off to a slow start and lost some key points in doubles,” Cary Academy coach Styrling Strother said. “I knew the resiliency of my girls and that they would make it a match. We hit our stride in singles. It was close.”
Cary Academy loses only senior Ellie Johnson at No. 1 singles from a team that finished 21-2. The Chargers’ only other loss was early in the season to Cardinal Gibbons.
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In NCISAA team tennis, the doubles are staged first. Country Day swept the matches 8-6, 8-1 and 8-5 for a 3-0 lead. That meant Cary Academy had to win five of six singles to pull out a victory.
The Chargers got the first team point quickly when sophomore Natalie Timinskas won, 6-3, 6-1. The other five matches were tight and dragged on for close to two hours to leave the result in doubt.
“We’re always thinking positive and never give up,” Timinskas said. “Everyone fought hard. I’m proud of my team.”
After Country Day sophomore Parker Shelton defeated Cary Academy freshman Alexandra Ellison in a tiebreaker, 3-6, 6-2 (10-5), the Buccaneers needed only one more team point.
But the other four matches were close, Cary Academy junior Chloe Hasund nearly won by injury default at No. 5 singles. Her match with Country Day’s Lindsay Larken was stopped for a back injury. Play resumed, but during the award ceremony Larken had an ice pack taped around the hips to her back.
Johnson at No. 1 and junior Taylor Timinskas at No. 2 were in back-and-forth matches, but the Nos. 1, 2 and 5 matches were halted once Country Day senior Sally Sasz scored the team-clinching point at No. 4 with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over sophomore Kate Sanchez.
Country Day’s players ran on the court to mob Sasz, but Cary Academy’s players were close behind to console the tearful Sanchez.
In addition to five returning singles players, freshman Lauren Hsu played No. 3 doubles with Sanchez.
“The experience will pump us up for next year to see if we can win,” Natalie Timinskas said. “We’ll fight just has hard as this year. We learned about playing in big matches.”
2A tennis: Make that five in a row for St. David’s, the powerhouse girls tennis program among 2A teams. The Warriors defeated Cape Fear Academy 5-2 on Saturday, the fourth straight year St. David’s has defeated the Wilmington school in the final.
The Warriors’ Sydney Cook and Gracie Crowder won 8-1, and Grace Haile and Molly Matthews did the same to put the Warriors (16-3) ahead 2-1 starting singles.
Cook (6-1, 6-2) and Haile (6-0, 6-0) won quickly to lead off singles to put St. David’s up 4-1. Matthews closed out the match before Crowder or Brinkley Thompson could. Only Lindsey Munster graduates next year.
“This is very satisfying because it was a total team effort,” Jenn Crowder said in a statement. “I am very proud of all seven of them, because we needed everyone to play well every time out. We are a strong team one through six and our depth came through fro us again today.”
1A tennis: Wayne Country Day won its fourth straight 1A girls team tennis title, and the players say it gets sweeter rather than routine.
“It definitely gets sweeter – especially this being my senior year,” said No. 2 singles Ally Willman, a top six player all four seasons. “I tried not to take anything for granted. I’m so proud of my teams for what we accomplished the last four years.”
The Goldsboro school defeated Kerr-Vance Academy of Henderson 5-0 Saturday at the James R Nisbet Tennis Center at Campbell University.
It was the second straight year that Wayne defeated Kerr-Vance in the state final, but this year the Spartans were a younger team.
“We’re happy we were here,” Kerr-Vance coach Hilda Delbridge said. “We don’t have a senior on the team. I’m proud of them, and we’re optimistic we’ll we back. We lost three seniors from last year’s team.”
Country Day took a 3-0 lead in doubles, although all three matches went back and forth.
In doubles, Country Day’s junior Jennifer Potts and junior Eliza Eagles won at No. 1, 8-6; Willman and sophomore Langley Barnes at No. 2, 8-5; and junior Hannah Fesler and senior Aimee Barnes at No. 3, 8-6.
With the sweep, Country Day needed only two singles wins to clinch. Potts won at No. 1 6-0, 6-1 and Barnes at No. 4 6-3, 6-1 to end the match.
Potts is a junior, but it also was her fourth straight title. She played on the varsity as an eighth-grader as is permitted in the NCISAA. This was her first year playing No. 1 singles.
“We came out here to win,” Potts said. “You could tell by the way doubles started out. All the matches we were down at some point, but we know how to come back and play every point out.”
The top six players Kerr-Vance returns next year are junior Holly Steg, junior Savannah Barnes, junior Kayla Abbott, freshman Edie Echols, freshman Caroline Williams and Lorena Negron.