Two years ago, Panther Creek seniors Jordan Strickland and Sammi Smith walked onto the courts of the Burlington Tennis Center as students of a school still waiting for its first N.C. High School Athletic Association championship.
On Sunday, they walked off those courts with three.
The Catamounts won their third straight NCHSAA 4A girls tennis dual-team championship, and for the third straight year it wasn’t close. Panther Creek made quick work of Charlotte’s Myers Park 5-1 for the title.
“It feels pretty awesome, being able to contribute to our school and finish our high school career with three state championships,” Strickland siad.
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“It feels good to go out on a win,” Smith said. “We knew it was our last match no matter what.”
Smith and Strickland exit their high school careers as two of the most decorated players in Wake County, if not state, history. They became the second NCHSAA duo to win four straight doubles championships last weekend.
Panther Creek (21-0) has won 46 straight matches and two straight titles over Myers Park (16-1). The last loss was a regular-season finale against powerhouse Broughton, still in its heyday. Two weeks, later, Panther Creek turned the tables and hasn’t lost since.
Now it’s the 4A powerhouse.
“It’s been an incredible three years with this group and four years with these seniors,” coach Nathaniel Blalock said.
Panther Creek’s five wins came in a 20-minute span, started by Strickland’s 6-1, 6-0 win at No. 2 singles. No. 1 Smith followed suit 6-0, 6-1, then No. 4 Amanda Cyr 6-4, 6-2 followed by No. 5 Aishani Tingare 6-1, 6-1 and seconds later Melody Zhang won 6-1, 6-0.
With the match already clinched, senior Orla Labiche lost her No. 3 third-set tiebreaker 6-1, 0-6, 10-7.
“We all had so much fun together and we backed each other up,” Labiche said. “We just really enjoyed each other’s company.”
Though the Catamounts will lose their top three players and Loren Kim, the goal will remain the same for Blalock’s new dynasty.
“We feel like we’ve got a team we can build on and have success. That’s always going to be the goal to get to this spot,” Blalock said.