Sophie Gray’s mother is from Michigan, her father Chicago and she was born in the Windy City, but that didn’t give the Green Hope sophomore an edge in a crucial singles match on a chilly, blustering championship night.
“I hate the cold,” she said.
Green Hope beat Cardinal Gibbons 6-3 in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A East Region final Tuesday night on the Crusaders’ courts. The Falcons advanced to the state championship match Saturday in Burlington.
Gray’s 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 win at No. 5 singles tipped the outcome heavily in the Falcons’ favor entering doubles.
Never miss a local story.
“The wind in the first set was crazy and made impossible to hit anything,” Gray said. “But the second set I was able to turn things around. I was confident I was going to win.”
So why didn’t she bundle up?
“It’s too hard to move playing in sweats,” she said.
Green Hope jumped out a 3-1 lead behind a trio of freshmen: No 3 Katie Andreini, 6-2, 6-0; No. 4 Anna Rico, 6-3, 6-1; and No. 6, Reilly Major, 6-2, 6-0.
Gibbons’ junior Jenna Knors scored the Crusaders’ first team point at No. 2 singles, 6-1, 6-3.
That left two ongoing battles at Nos. 1 and No. 5 to determine if Green Hope could clinch the match in singles or Gibbons could at least force doubles or tie the match 3-3.
After one hour and 54 minutes, Gary clinched her win over sophomore Karly Fitzgerald. It took another 12 minutes for Gibbons No. 1 singles Lizzie Galush to force doubles. She beat UNC-Ashville-bound Ana Horvat 7-6 (9-7), 6-1 in 2:06, who like Gray played without sweats.
“They’re crazy,” said Rico, who was bundled up in sweats along with Andreini, her teammate at No. 1 doubles.
After a 25-minute break, Andreini and Rico won their match 10-2 to clinch the team score at 5-2.
Although they’re only freshmen, they had looked forward to joining Green Hope’s strong program. The Falcons lost in the NCHSAA 4A East final a year ago to eventual state champion Panther Creek.
“We train at Cary Tennis Park, so sometimes we’d walk over and watch them play,” Andreini said. “We wanted to be a part of it.”
They beat Galush and Knors, who won the state 4A doubles title on two weeks ago in the NCHSAA individual tournament.
The schools opted to play out the remaining doubles matches to account for the final team score.
“We had a great year with a great group of seniors,” Gibbons Coach Andrew Tuttle said. “It’s sad to see them go; they’ve given so much to our team over the years. We came up a little short against a very good team, but they gave it their all. That’s all I can ask for.”
Follow Tom Shanahan of Today’s U on Twitter @shanny4055