High School Sports

Cap-8 girls tennis preview: Sanderson wants to be on top again

By Jonas Pope IV

Sanderson coach Joe Mesiano’s stamp is all over the Spartans tennis program. He has been the head coach for more than a decade, leading Sanderson to its first-ever Cap-8 conference crown last season.

However, the Spartans split the championship with Broughton a year ago and Mesiano is clear about the goal in 2015.

“We want to win the Cap-8 outright,” he said.

This is my personal opinion … granted Panther Creek won the state championship the last two years, but I think the Cap-8 is the strongest conference in the state.

Sanderson tennis coach Joe Mesiano

Mesiano has 27 girls in the program, 12 on varsity, who will look to bring the title back to Sanderson. The strength of the roster will be the veteran players who were a part of that title team.

“They got so much better,” Mesiano said, “It’s amazing. I think we are going to be a strong team this year.”

Mesiano is expecting a contribution from a freshman Sibel Tanik, as well as his returning juniors and seniors. Pimpitcha Jattavapornvanit, an exchange student from Thailand who helped the team last season, was only in the country for year so will not be returning, Mesiano said.

At the top of his list are Safia Anthony, Dylan Cannon, Kate Griffin and Hannah Scott-Holshouser. Mesiano said he had eight strong players a year ago, which led to the conference title. The improvement of his players over the summer has him feeling good about his chances to repeat. For example, Scott-Holshouser was the Spartans No. 8 player last season, but will play as the No. 3 this year.

The veteran coach hopes his team can ride the momentum of a co-championship in 2014 into the 2015 season. Non-stop tennis from his best players doesn’t hurt, either.

“My top girls play tennis all year round,” Mesiano said.

Tanik played in a tournament in Cary last weekend, finishing second in the individuals but winning the doubles. Mesiano pointed out that Tanik, 14, played up a division, going against the 16-year-olds.

The battle for the No. 1 spot will come down to Tanik and Cannon, Mesiano said. He let the two battle it out in practice this week, and will have them go head-to-head one more time before he determines who will hold the top spot.

Last year, Sanderson (18-3, 13-1) and Broughton (17-2, 13-1) split in the regular season, with each team defending its home court. Broughton had five freshmen on that team. Green Hope ended the Spartans’ season in the state playoffs, but with the competition they’ll face in the Cap-8, Mesiano expects his squad to be stronger in the postseason.

“This is my personal opinion … granted Panther Creek won the state championship the last two years, but I think the Cap-8 is the strongest conference in the state,” Mesiano said.

Last season Sanderson finished sixth in the state and have a solid core in Safia Anthony, Dylan Cannon, Kate Griffin and Hannah Scott-Holshouser. The Spartans also expect 14-year-old freshman Sibel Tanik to contribute. Broughton, that had five freshman make up the 2014 roster, was seventh and Wakefield (12-5), which will return 4A individual champion Susanne Boyen, was 10th. Boyden is the No. 2 ranked player in North Carolina, according to the Tennis Recruiting Network.

Millbrook (7-7, 7-7) returns seniors Katie LeFevre, Amelia Reiher, Hannah Shifman and Mackinley Sloan and two juniors from a .500 team, while Enloe (7-8, 6-8) had nine freshman or sophmores make up a 12-player roster.

In 2014, Leesville Road (6-9, 5-9) lost to a strong Wakefield team 5-4 at home, showing they can compete with the top teams in the Cap-8.

Wake Forest (3-14, 1-13) had the biggest roster in 2014 (21 players) and return 17 of them, including seniors Leslie Blalock and Kinnsey Ness, junior Kyrsten Le and sophomores Trinity Burke and Bree McClung.

The lone bright spot for Heritage (1-14, 1-13) was a 5-4 win over rival Wake Forest on Sept. 24.

J. Mike Blake, Jessika Morgan and Mike Potter contributed to this article.

OTHER AREA SCHOOLS

Athens Drive (10-7, 7-7): Athens Drive has No. 4 singles player Katherine Clapp as well as No. 5 Kristen Smedley and No. 6 Irena Brain.

Cardinal Gibbons (28-0, 12-0: NCHSAA 3A champion): Cardinal Gibbons posted the perfect season last year, finishing undefeated en route to its second straight NCHSAA 3A championship (third in the last four years). The Crusaders will return four of their top six players in junior and tournament MVP Lizzie Galush, sophomore Jenna Knors, senior Summer Jacobs, and junior Kate Freed. Juniors Caroline Igo (15-1 singles) and Kristen Fitzgerald (12-0) are expected to fill out the lineup. Freshmen Karly Fitzgerald and Lily Ruocchio are also expected to show great potential this season.

Rolesville (4-9, 4-9): Jeanne Pastorius was voted coach of the year last season. Junior Nikoru Uzoho and sophomore Katie Nguyen are the top two returnees.

Southeast Raleigh (0-14, 0-14): Third-year coach Jazmin Highsmith says the thing she likes most about her team is the players’ attitudes. Madison Leake, Kiara Mosley, and Kiarra McKenzie-Perry are expected contributors.

Ravenscroft (13-10, 5-5): The Ravens will play their first two matches of the season away at Jordan and Forsyth Country Day.

Franklin Academy (13-5, 5-3): Seniors Elizabeth Keel and Taylor Hernie enter the 2015 season as team captains.

Grace Christian Raleigh (6-9, 0-6): Maddie Chase, Chloe Gower, Victoria Kent, Katherine Matthes, MiKayla Nobles, Chris Scro and Grayson Vick comprise the 2015 roster.

North Raleigh Christian (15-5, 8-2): Lauren French and Anne Woodard are the only two seniors on a team that will feature three middle school-aged players.

Raleigh Charter (8-4, 5-3): Raleigh Charter advanced to the third round of state playoffs last year. They Phoenix will open their season at St. Mary’s on Aug. 26.

St. David’s (17-3, 8-0): St. David’s, the three-time defending NCISAA 2A champs, open its season against defending NCHSAA 3A champion Cardinal Gibbons.

St. Mary’s (7-16, 2-8): Key returner Katherine “Portie” Stallings won 75 percent of her matches as a freshman last year. She and rising senior Hannah Jones are expected to make an impact this season.

Wake Christian (0-10, 0-10): Wake Christian hosts Village Christian Academy in its season opener.

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