The girls tennis players from Charlotte’s Myers Park High didn’t want to experience heartbreak for a third straight season and played like it while rallying to a 5-4 victory against Green Hope in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A dual-team title at the Burlington Tennis Center on Saturday.
Green Hope was playing in its first state championship, but the Mustangs were playing in their third straight title, having finished runner-up two straight years to Green Hope’s crosstown rival Panther Creek.
The experience was an advantage for Myers Park (21-0), which didn’t get flustered after falling behind 3-0 halfway through singles. Green Hope (20-2), which had just one senior – and three freshmen – in its lineup, dropped the next three singles matches to force doubles at 3-all. It was the first time doubles had been needed in the 4A title since 2011.
“They were as deep as we were, and that’s why it was 3-all,” Green Hope coach Pam Gilbert said.
All year long, Green Hope’s strength had been in its lower matches.
When Sophia Gray and Aoi Kajiwara lost 10-5 at No. 3 doubles, it took away one of Green Hope’s expected victories. Another one had come earlier when undefeated No. 6 singles player Reilly Major fell 6-4, 7-5 to Myers Park’s Halle Futch.
The No. 2 doubles team of Katie Andreini and Anna Rico won 10-2 for the Falcons, and all eyes turned to No. 1 doubles.
Myers Park’s Leah Wallihan and Serena Evans made a furious rally, once trailing 6-2 to win 10-6 and clinch the state championship.
“The other team played really well. They didn’t make any mistakes on (doubles courts) one and three,”
In other singles matches, Green Hope No. 1 Ana Horvat lost 6-4, 6-2 to Maddie Weber, No. 2 Cynthia Xiao lost 6-4, 6-0 to Wallihan, No. 3 Andreini defeated Evans 6-4, 6-3, No. 4 Rico defeated Emily Holderness 6-2, 6-1 and No. 5 Gray beat Katie Soden 6-3, 6-0.
Horvat, a UNC-Asheville recruit, is the lone senior in the singles lineup. Kajiwara is also a senior.
“Nobody should be disappointed in any of it,” Gilbert said. “It’s harder than it looks just to get here and actually win the match and we should only be positive and not worry about ifs ands or buts because you could do that all day.”
She continued: “We had a great season, you really can’t complain.”