Something had to give on Thursday when Cardinal Gibbons and Cary Academy met on the neutral courts at the Cary Tennis Center. Specifically, a loss.
Both teams were undefeated going into the showdown.
Depending on what time you were to walk by those courts, your view of the outcome could have been skewed. Cardinal Gibbons started slow in singles, but all of its players rallied back to beat the Chargers 7-2.
“It wasn’t going to be an easy win. We got competition on every court,” Gibbons coach Andrew Tuttle said. “At one point we were down on five out of the six singles courts in the first set.”
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The Crusaders (16-0) won two of three doubles matches to start but fell behind in singles. Gibbons was simply not used to playing others this good, Tuttle said.
“I think part of the reason for the slow start in singles was just that we don’t see that competition on a regular basis,” Tuttle said. “As much as you try to be mentally ready for it ... you’re not quite into it until you get that competition on the other side and you get fired up.”
Cary Academy’s only singles win came from No. 1 Jessie Liu, a senior who defeated senior Devin Knors 6-4, 7-6(3).
Gibbons’ No. 3 Jenna Knors, a freshman, claimed a 6-1, 6-1 win over senior Alex Udell, and No. 4 Natalie Freeman topped senior Jenny Landguth 6-3, 6-1 but the rest were closer.
No. 2 Lizzie Galush came back on sophomore Ellie Johnson 6-3, 6-3, while No. 5 Summer Jacobs outlasted freshman Camryn Rossa 7-5, 6-4 and No. 6 Kate Freed claimed a third-set tiebreaker 6-3, 3-6 (10-5) against freshman Taylor Timinskas.
Gibbons and Cary Academy used to be in the same conference before Gibbons made the move from the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association to the N.C. High School Athletic Association.
Which means the schools have different aims. Unlike the NCHSAA, the NCISAA does not have an individual tournament.
Cary Academy coach Stryling Strother’s team can focus simply on winning the NCISAA team title. In Strother’s four previous years, the Chargers have made it to at least the 3A semifinals three times.
“I thought we competed well. There are some things we could’ve done better that we’ve been working on in practice,” Strother said. “We got down early in doubles and it’s one of those things where we were fighting and we just came short.
“We can really learn from this loss. It’s always a humbling experience. I think we can take this and refocus on some areas like maintaining our intensity and maintaining our effort level. We’ve got to shake off those points we lose and keep moving forward.”
The Knors sisters won 8-4 at No. 1 singles, while Freeman and Jacobs – the NCHSAA 3A state runners-up last year to Devin Knors and Galush – won at No. 3 8-3. Cary Academy’s Johnson and Landguth won 8-6 at No. 2.