Archived Stories for Union County Public Schools
Sometimes, a tough loss says more about a team than a dominant win. Just ask the Weddington High School girls tennis team.
The Warriors, currently ranked No. 3 in the state, according to the N.C. Tennis Coaches Association 3A poll, ripped through their early schedule, downing Charlotte powers South Mecklenburg, Charlotte Latin and Ardrey Kell â€“ all teams that figure to factor into their respective conference championship races at the end of the season.
With a 3-0 record, Weddington traveled to Charlotte stalwart Myers Park, widely regarded as one of the top Class 4A teams in the state.
At the end of the singles portion, the Warriors held a 4-2 lead. But inexperience reared its head in the doubles competition, and they dropped all three matches to fall to the Mustangs, 5-4.
â€œWe werenâ€™t on (our game),â€ said freshman Heidi Swope, the teamâ€™s No. 2 player.
â€œWe got a little cocky (after our strong start), and it whooped us up.â€
Heartbreaking? Yes. Encouraging? Absolutely. â€œAt that point, I knew we were going to be good,â€ Warriors coach Mike Murphy said of the narrow loss to Myers Park.
â€œIf you want to see how good you are, you want to play the good teams,â€ Murphy continued. â€œThatâ€™s why we try to play the Myers Parks, the Charlotte Latins and the Providences, because those are the matches that are competitive.â€
For Weddington, itâ€™s a tried-and-true approach. After completing a similar slate last season, the Warriors advanced all the way to the Class 3A semifinals and finished with a 14-7 record. Furthermore, top-seeded player Jasmine Gabriel, the 2010 Union County Weekly Girls Tennis Player of the Year, was a state semifinalist in the singles tournament, while then-teammates Sarah Carroll and Kindell Schmitt captured the state doubles crown.
â€œI think it definitely helped us toward the end of the year that we had played so many quality teams going into the playoffs,â€ Murphy said. â€œWe didnâ€™t see anything we hadnâ€™t seen all year.â€
So far this year, the Warriors have learned from the loss and improved their record to 7-1. Gabriel, just a sophomore, has been electric in the Warriorsâ€™ top spot with a 7-0 record. Swope has assimilated to the varsity game nicely as a freshman and is 7-0 as well. Third seed Casey Rowe is 6-1, while Nicole Luce (4-3), Emma Yates (5-2) and Lacey Hunter (4-3) have been solid in the fourth, fifth and sixth spots, respectively.
And so far, the lofty state ranking has been a nice reward for the Warriors.
â€œItâ€™s really exciting to be ranked so high,â€ said Luce. â€œWe really appreciate that we all work so hard for it. We donâ€™t just pick up our rackets before the season and put them down (at the end). We play throughout the whole year and work as hard as we can.â€
With the brutal non-conference schedule largely out the way, the Warriors are right in the middle of Southern Carolina 3A/4A conference play and currently are 2-0 with wins over Porter Ridge and Sun Valley. But Weddington has a built-in guard against complacency in conference rival Marvin Ridge, which is currently ranked as the ninth-best 3A team in the state. That certainly puts the Warriorsâ€™ ranking in proper perspective, said Murphy.
â€œThe polls are nice, and itâ€™s great to get that kind of recognition, but we still have to beat Marvin Ridge in order to get the (conferenceâ€™s) No. 1 seed (for the state playoffs), and thatâ€™s our goal,â€ Murphy added. â€œWe talk more about that than any kind of state ranking.â€
The two teams were slated to meet for the first time on Sept. 21, but rain forced the match to be rescheduled. A make-up date has yet to be set, but the rivals are scheduled to meet again in each teamâ€™s regular-season finale on Oct. 10.
Though the initial match was rained out, Gabriel could see a difference in the teamâ€™s focus while preparing for the Mavericks.
â€œWe get more focused before that game,â€ Gabriel. â€œThis week of practice has been so intense.â€
Which is a good thing for Murphyâ€™s team. After all, there is still polishing to be done. The coach wants to see an improvement in doubles play, as well as a decrease in unforced errors. But all in all, Murphy is pleased with his teamâ€™s progress â€“ at least so far.
â€œ(Those are areas) of concern for me,â€ he said. â€œbut overall, Iâ€™ve been pleased with the way weâ€™ve started.â€
Written by: Aaron Garcia, Union County Weekly
Posted: Oct 05, 2011 by Cheryl Edwards