A familiar pattern for Carrboro High School tennis has settled upon this fall’s team. Carrboro, a regular contender in the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s post-season, again has a roster is talented enough and deep enough that its best competition often is found in between its own players.
The Jaguars, who reached last year’s 2A semifinals in the NCHSAA dual-team tournament, improved to 9-1 Thursday with a 9-0 win against 3A Chapel Hill, one of the top programs in the state.
“Chapel Hill is always a good test for us,” said Carrboro senior Danielle Sawyer, who won 6-0, 6-0 at No. 1 Thursday. “They’re a local team and always gave good players. We’ve always had good matches against them, and we always enjoy playing them.”
Carrboro ninth-grader Jessica Ille won her match against Chapel Hill 6-0, 6-1 at No. 2 singles, while Abbie Rader won 6-2, 6-0, and Olivia Shaheen won 6-1, 6-2, at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively.
The closest matches were at No. 5 and No. 6, where sophomore Emine Arcasoy won 6-3, 6-3, and Jordan Owen won 6-2, 6-4.
Carrboro swept the doubles, where Sawyer-Ille and Rader-Shaheen both won 8-0. Jessica Weiner and Arcasoy were leading 6-2 at No. 3 doubles when darkness and a light rain forced a stop.
Chapel Hill fell to 8-4 overall with the non-conference loss, but was still 7-1 in Big Eight matches and remained concerned more with staying near the top of its conference. The Tigers’ only conference loss has been against undefeated Cardinal Gibbons, ranked No. 1 among the state’s 3A teams.
The Tigers have defeated all other Big Eight rivals so far by a combined 54-2 margin, giving up a lone individual match against Cedar Ridge and one against Orange.
Chapel Hill has upcoming rematches at Cedar Ridge on Monday and at home Wednesday against Orange.
“We’ve got to beat Cedar Ridge on Monday. That’s an important conference match,” Chapel Hill head coach Neal Alderman said. “If we win that one, we’re in the state playoffs.”
Carrboro’s one loss this season came against Durham Academy in the first week of the season, when the Jaguars hosted the Cavaliers and Voyager Academy on back-to-back days in late August. Since then, the Jaguars have won eight straight.
The Jaguars have rolled through their regular-season schedule with barely a bump. They closest match was a 5-4 victory at Apex Middle Creek, a 4A team in the Southwest Wake Conference.
Carrboro has easily defeated its top competition in the Mid-State Conference’s first leg — Jordan-Matthews, Bartlett Yancey and Reidsville — all by 9-0 scores.
The Middle Creek win nicely illustrated the value of Carrboro’s depth. The Jaguars lost at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, but won the bottom four singles and then clinched the match by winning at No. 3 doubles.
“That’s a complete flip of the way things normally go,” Carrboro head coach Jon Noyes said. “The bottom of our lineup really came through for us.”
Carrboro’s depth has been boosted by the arrival this fall of five ninth-graders — Ille, Anna Kemper, Bella Larsen, Rachel McCown and Dorie Speer — plus the improved play of sophomores Arcasoy, Isabel Chung and Kalei Taylor Stroud.
“All our girls are very good,” Noyes said. “Hopefully our younger players will get in some tournament play in the off-season and will in a position to move up after our seniors (Sawyer, Shaheen, Owen, Weiner and Emma Barnhardt) graduate.”
Ille, with the most USTA tournament experience of any Jaguar, had an immediate impact on the Carrboro lineup and zoomed up the challenge ladder. With Carrboro near the midpoint of its season, Ille and Sawyer are virtually tied in the race to see who can stay on the No. 1 court.
Sawyer, a senior, who along with Shaheen won last year’s NCHSAA East Region doubles championship, bumped a then-senior out of the No. 1 spot when she was a ninth-grader.
“Danielle and Jessie are neck-and-neck,” Noyes said. “They’re both very, very good.”