WILMINGTON — The Mount Airy tennis team faced high-level competition at a weekend tournament in Wilmington and came away with a hard-earned third place finish.
The Lady Bears were the top-ranked 1A team in the first coaches poll of the season last week at mytennisnetwork.com. However, their opponents included Hoggard, an honorable mention for the 4A poll, and Broughton, the number one 4A team in the state.
The Bears opened play against the hometown school, Emsley A. Laney High, on Friday at the nearby Althea Gibson Tennis Complex in Empie Park. The girls swept singles 6-0 and won the match 7-2.
Davi Barbour had a marathon win in the second-seed match. She won her first set in a tiebreaker 7-6, then lost the second set in a tiebreaker 6-7. The third-set tiebreaker lasted to 10-7.
Jade Hughes (6-2, 6-0) and Haley Thomas (6-1, 6-0) breezed through the third and fourth matches.
In preseason scrimmages, Blair Holcomb played the sixth seed. But after challenge matches last week, Carley Vanhoy played that spot Friday. She won her first match 6-2, 6-4.
In doubles play, top seed Jordan Jackson and Bree Hughes won 8-3.
Barbour and Thomas fell 6-8, and Jade Hughes and India Inman fell 8-9.
The Bears advanced to the semifinals on Saturday against Broughton, which edged out Grimsley and Page for the top spot in the season-opening 4A poll.
Jackson fell in the top spot 0-6, 1-6 to sophomore standout Kara Summerford, already viewed as a three-star prospect on the Tennis Recruiting Network.
Barbour and Thomas won their matches in three sets.
Barbour took her first set 6-4 over Ashley Ramsay, then fell 1-6 in the second set before rallying for the win.
Thomas was swept in the first set 0-6 by Belle Paylor, but then found her rhythm to win the second 6-1 and then took the third.
Vanhoy nearly pulled off the same type of comeback. She lost 1-6 in the first set to Sarah O’han, then won the second set in a tiebreaker 7-6 before falling in the third set.
The Hughes sisters lost in straight sets. Jade fell to Allison Austin 0-6, 1-6 and Bree lost to Blaine Blackburn 3-6, 0-6.
In doubles, Barbour and Thomas fell 6-8 to Ramsay and Austin.
Jackson and Bree Hughes won 8-3 over O’han and Grace Barnard.
Vanhoy and Abby Hagwood won 8-5 over Sidney Saleeby and Mary Ellis Fanney.
By the time the girls took the court for their third-place match, players on both sides were showing some fatigue after three matches in two days.
“I could tell they were running out of gas by the end,” said Coach Scott Kniskern, who was very pleased with his team’s play against such top-notch competition.
Despite their weariness, the Bears took five of six singles matches to claim third place before doubles play began.
Jackson fell 1-6, 1-6 to Mckayla Zupan, a senior ranked eighth in the state for all school divisions on the Babolat recruiting list.
Barbour won the second-seed match 6-2, 6-4 over Melanie Post. Jade Hughes won 6-2, 6-2 over Ellie Scialabba.
Thomas won 6-4, 6-1 over Lydia Harley for the fourth seeds. Bree Hughes won 6-1, 6-0 against Brianna Smith.
The sixth seeds played an eight-game pro set instead of two six-game sets. Vanhoy won 8-5 over Caroline Tervo.
The Bears dropped all three doubles matches, but had already clinched the win by that point.
Including a scrimmage against 2A powerhouse Salisbury, the Lady Bears already have seen the strongest competition they will face in the regular season.
In four matches against some of the best schools, the Bears finished 2-2.
Kniskern said he hopes this serves a couple of purposes. He hopes the girls can take some confidence in the way they held up under pressure.
However, he also wants their two losses to motivate them to strive harder and focus more intently so that they can get better.
With just one day of rest, the Bears hosted Watauga on Monday and fell 5-4.
The Bears split the singles matches 3-3.
Thomas kept her unbeaten streak going, winning her fourth-seed match 6-2, 6-0 over Kelsi Kanoy. As a sixth seed last year, Thomas didn’t lose a singles match in the regular season. Her only singles loss was in the state dual-team championship.
Jade Hughes won 6-2, 6-2 over Nicole Fox, and Vanhoy won 6-2, 6-0 over Savannah Copeland.
Jackson fell in a third-set tiebreaker to Meredith Smith, Barbour lost to Hannah Peterson and Bree Hughes fell to Emily Burwell.
With the match still up for grabs, Barbour and Thomas lost to Smith and Fox 10-3. Jackson and Bree Hughes lost to Peterson/Burwell 10-1.
That gave Watauga the win. Jade Hughes and Inman stopped at eight games, winning 8-2 over Kanoy and Copeland.
Watauga played very well Monday, but the Bears didn’t have much left in the gas tank after that tournament, Kniskern admitted.
And, Mount Airy doesn’t get to rest yet as West Stokes comes to town this afternoon.
At least this is a 2A school rather than another 4A squad, he said. Matches begin at 4 p.m.
Reach Jeff Linville at email@example.com or at 719-1920.