Fuquay-Varina graduate Marshall Wortham long thought he’d enjoy a homecoming to coach tennis when he accepted positions this year to guide the Bengals’ girls in the fall and boys in the spring.
The Fuquay tennis alum was smiling and joking with his girls after the Bengals improved to 2-3 in the powerful Southwest Wake Athletic Conference with a 7-1 win over Cary on Thursday at Dunham Park.
A 2-3 record may not sound like much, but Wortham has brought new energy to the program. Fuquay defeated Holly Springs to open conference play before suffering a gauntlet of one-sided losses to 4A defending state champion Panther Creek and state and regional contenders Green Hope and Apex.
“We call it our ‘week of shame,’ ” said junior No. 4 singles Megan Greene, who beat her Cary opponent 6-0, 6-0, referring to various combinations of back-to-back losses to the trio over the years.
But Wortham is teaching his girls to focus on the rest of the conference.
“Coach Wortham has improved our team a lot,” said junior No. 2 singles Ellie McAlonen. “We have a lot more confidence.”
McAlonen rallied from a first set loss to Cary’s Andrea Padilla to win 4-6, 6-4 (10-3). Fuquay only had four team points before McAlonen won the clinching team point.
“I want to build a tennis culture at our school,” said Wortham, who coached 10 years at Harnett Central with two league titles and two coach-of-the-year awards. “I want my players to learn to love a game they can play the rest of their lives.”
Fuquay’s other singles wins came from No. 3 sophomore Aysha Diallo, 6-2, 6-2; No. 5 senior Jessica Craemer 6-0, 6-0 and No. 6 sophomore Adelle Schubarg 6-0, 6-0.
Cary’s lone team point was at No. 1 singles from Supriya Narisetti at 6-0, 6-0 over Alexa Greene.
Alexa Greene and McAlonen won at No. 1 doubles by default, and Schubarg and Anna Braxton won at No. 3 doubles 8-3.
No. 2 doubles wasn’t contested.
Wortham benefits from having junior sisters Alexa Greene at No. 1 and Megan Greene at No. 4, although their fraternal triplet sister Brittaney Greene plays for Fuquay’s golf team.
“Megan and I told her we don’t consider golf a sport,” Alexa said with a laugh. “But she’s better at golf.”