Mount Airy’s tennis team is just one victory away from a wire-to-wire run as the No. 1 team in the state.
The Lady Bears advanced to the NCHSAA 1A dual-team state championship match on Wednesday evening, dispatching Chatham Charter 6-3 in the West Regional final on the courts at Mount Airy High School.
Mount Airy (26-1 overall) will play Raleigh Charter for the state championship on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at the Burlington Tennis Center, in what will be a rematch of the 2013 final. The Phoenix defeated Whiteville 6-0 in the East Regional final on Wednesday. RCHS is in its second straight state championship match, having lost to Bishop McGuinness 5-1 in last year’s final. Raleigh Charter (13-0) was ranked third in the final N.C. High School Tennis Coaches’ Association poll, with Chatham Central ahead of them in second.
Against the fifth-ranked Lady Knights (16-4), Mount Airy won four of the six singles matches very quickly, with No. 4 Maya Hicks opening things with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Allie-Grace Culberson. She was followed in rapid succession by sixth seed Elizabeth Bray downing Rachel Brookshire 6-2, 6-0, and then No. 5 seed Lisa Omuro completing a double-bagel victory over Kayla Kidd. When second-seeded Elizabeth Marion polished off Brenna Underwood 6-1, 6-3, a blitzkrieg of Lady Bear wins that had taken only about 40 minutes to wrap up left Mount Airy needing just one victory to secure the regional title. However, top seed Bailey Jackson and third-seeded Logan King were still on the court, and both had very tough opponents in their matches. Neither could pull out a victory. Jackson won her first set fairly easily, but dropped to breaks in set two and trailed 2-5 before rallying. However, Chatham’s Katya Langdon held on to win the set, and then the two played a match tiebreaker in which Langdon won the first six points. Jackson battled back to even the score at 8-8, but then lost the last two points and the match, 3-6, 7-5, (10-8).
King’s match went just the opposite direction. She held a 5-4 lead in the opening set but then lost the next three games against Landin Eldridge. King battled back for a 6-3 victory in set two but then lost the tiebreaker by an identical 10-8 score. In the tiebreaker, she led 5-2, but then lost seven straight points. The senior then saved three match points before finally going down 7-5, 3-6, (10-8).
The two tiebreaker wins kept the Lady Knights in the match, but there was still no question about who would win. Chatham needed to sweep the doubles matches and ended up losing them all. The No. 3 doubles ended first, with Hicks and Omuro blanking Kidd and Megan Coble 10-0 to send the Lady Bears to the state championship. The win made that pairing a perfect 18-0 this season at No. 3 doubles.
Although the match was over with that result, the teams played through on the other two doubles matches.
Chatham Charter was able to pull out the No. 2 doubles match, in which Eldridge and Culberson won seven of the last nine games against King and Bray after trailing 4-3. That left Jackson and Marion on the court, playing their No. 1 doubles match against Langdon and Underwood. In that match, Jackson and Marion won six of the first seven games before finally losing two in a row. However, they remained two breaks up at that point, and simply swapped wins until the match ended as a 10-6 victory.
Raleigh Charter ran the table this season in the North Central Athletic Conference, a 1A league made up entirely of charter schools from the Raleigh-Durham area. They won this league with a perfect 10-0 mark while dropping just one individual match, then beat conference rival Franklin Academy in the second round of the state playoffs after a first-round bye. RCA beat Chatham Central 6-2 in the third round before eliminating Whiteville to reach the finals.
The teams last met in 2013, when Mount Airy and RCA squared off in the 1A final and the Lady Bears won 6-0 for their third straight crown. Three freshmen who played for MAHS in 2013, Anna Ilyasova, King and Jackson, are still on the Mount Airy team.
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