The Lady Bears are headed to Burlington Saturday to defend their state tennis title after defeating Bishop McGuinness 5-3 in the West Region final.
Mount Airy will face Raleigh Charter, which knocked off Franklin Academy 5-3.
“I have never played a team four times in a season before,” said Coach Scott Kniskern. The teams played twice in the regular season and split, then the Bears beat the Lady Villains in a seeding match before the playoffs.
“The other three had all been tight, and I felt certain that would be the case again,” he said. Kniskern felt sure that Bishop would come ready to play after beating a great Gray Stone Day team, so he warned his girls to be prepared mentally for a battle.
How tight was it? Five of the six singles matches needed a third-set tiebreaker to decide the outcome.
Third seed Bree Hughes has endured several long matches this season, some as long as two hours, but her match with Anna Owen went three hours this time.
The first set was even at 6-6, but Owen won the tiebreaker. Then Hughes edged out a 7-5 second set to force the third set.
As the girls battled, the other matches ended, and the Bears held a 3-2 lead.
Owen pulled out the tiebreaker and tied the team score 3-all.
On Court One, Davi Barbour faced Kyndall Cortes for the fourth time. Cortes won last time at East Surry, but Barbour took the first set 6-3 Wednesday.
Cortes bounced back with a 6-3 set of her own, but Barbour pulled out the tiebreaker.
Second seed Haley Thomas lost the first set 5-7 to Morgan Auger, but came back with a 6-4 second set.
Thomas said the tiebreaker was even at 6-6 when the players switched sides.
As she began to serve, Thomas announced the score “six-all” when Auger disagreed. Thomas said Auger then told her that two previous balls were both out and that those points went to Bishop.
The balls weren’t called out at the time they occurred, Thomas alleged. And taking two points off her score and giving them to Auger suddenly put the senior in a big hole late in the match. Thomas couldn’t make up the deficit and lost.
On Courts Five and Six, the Bears did pull out tiebreakers.
Carley VanHoy beat Anna Petrangeli 3-6, 6-4, 1-0. Bailey Jackson won 6-3, 2-6, 1-0.
Jai Daniels was the only player who didn’t face a tiebreaker, losing to Adaire Hudson 3-6, 4-6.
In doubles, Barbour and Jackson played the second doubles spot. They pulled away to win 10-4 over Auger/Hudson to give the Bears a fourth team point.
On Courts One and Three, the doubles teams went down a break early, Kniskern said.
Hughes and Daniels were down 2-3, but then roared back, winning eight of 10 games the rest of the way over Petrageli/Saia.
Thomas and VanHoy fell behind 1-5, but had battled back to 7-8 when the fifth point went to the Bears, so play was halted.
The Bears (19-2) take on Raleigh Charter (12-2) Saturday afternoon at the Burlington Tennis Center.
Mount Airy has been ranked first in the state coaches poll all season, while Raleigh Charter is ranked sixth in the latest poll after not being in the top 10 two weeks ago.