The Cap-8 may have witnessed a changing of the guard in girls’ tennis Thursday.
Sanderson dispatched long-time conference powerhouse Broughton for the second time this season to stay unbeaten and hold the inside track on the Cap-8 title.
On her home court, senior Kate Griffin clinched the match when she beat Wynn Burrus at No. 5 singles – moments after Sanderson’s Safia Anthony won a crucial match in a tiebreak at No. 4 over Meg Hardesty. The Spartans (12-0, 9-0 Cap-8) won five of six singles matches and two of three in doubles to get the 7-2 win.
“We spent all season preparing for this,” said Sanderson senior Hawthorne Buck, who won at No. 6 singles. “We were all just ready to win again — undefeated.”
Sanderson has four Cap-8 matches remaining but is favored in all. The Spartans were co-champions with Broughton a year ago and want the title outright in 2015.
“It would be awesome,” Griffin said. “Last year, we tied them and lost 5-4 in the playoff match. To solely win it, it would be awesome.”
Griffin and Buck are big reasons why Sanderson has emerged as a Cap-8 power, Spartans coach Joe Mesiano said. Before they arrived as freshmen, Sanderson was a mid-pack team. But their talent immediately elevated the program and began a Spartan surge.
“Those two were the building blocks,” Mesiano said. “They made our team stronger. Then, the next year, someone else came, somebody else came. But they started the ball rolling to get a winning attitude here at Sanderson. They are very, very special to me.”
It was fitting, then, that Griffin clinched the victory. After winning the first set, Griffin nearly let a 5-3 lead slip away.
“I let my nerves get to me a little bit,” Griffin said. “Then, I was just like, ‘OK, I don’t want to have to rely on doubles. I don’t want that pressure.’ So I just tried to close it out.”
Griffin’s win came after Anthony lost the second set to force a tiebreaker as the Capitals (11-2, 9-2) tried to mount a comeback.
“Kate was struggling, Safia was struggling, so I’m thinking, ‘We’re going 3-3 into doubles,’” Mesiano said. “It was kinda tight. … (Anthony) didn’t play her best, but it didn’t make a difference. She has heart, and she wasn’t going to go down.”
Broughton has long been one of the top programs in the state, but Caps coach Andy Fowler said she won’t let one match define her team’s season.
“This was our big match, to try to beat them today,” Fowler said. “We didn’t beat them, but we’re second in the conference. That’s not a bad place to be.
“We played much better today than we did last time (against Sanderson). I’m just thrilled. We’ve been working really hard, and I’m really proud of them. It was a lot closer than a 7-2 final looks like.”
The celebration – like the run-up to the match – was low-key for the Spartans. How did they celebrate?
“Homework,” Buck said. “We have a lot of things to do, but it’s a very good feeling, winning again.”