DURHAM — As difficult as it is to see a previously undefeated team end its playoff run in the state semifinals, Carrboro High School tennis coach Jon Noyes says he couldn’t have asked for more than what his Jaguars gave him in 2013.
“Our girls did a fantastic job,” Noyes said last week. “At 16-1, it’s hard to complain about that.”
Carrboro got within one step of the Jaguars’ professed goal of reaching this weekend’s state championship round. Their season ended at Whippoorwill Park in northern Durham with a 5-2 loss to the N.C. School of Science and Mathmatics. Carrboro and NCSSM entered Wednesday’s match undefeated and ranked second and third, respectively, in the N.C. High School Tennis Coaches’ poll.
NCSSM’s Unicorns rarely even get their hair mussed when dispatching area tennis opponents. Carrboro’s two individual wins – by Danielle Sawyer at No. 1 singles and Abby Rader at No. 3 – meant the team was the only that was able to win more than one singles match against NCSSM this year.
Playing in the not-exactly-challenging 2A Northern Carolina Conference, the Unicorns breezed through their regular season at 13-0 – losing just one individual match the entire season.
For an encore, they zipped through the first three rounds of the N.C. High School Athletics Association 2A dual-team playoffs, winning 6-0, 6-0, 6-0.
So when Carrboro forced NCSSM into doubles play before the Unicorns could finally put away the team match with a 10-0 win at No. 3 doubles, the Jaguars caught their attention.
“We knew this was the match we had to win to get back to the state finals,” NCSSM coach Richard McClenny said. “Our conference wasn’t all that tough, and we knew Carrboro would fight us.”
Carrboro (16-1), which lost to Greene Central in last year’s 2A semifinal, likewise knew what it was facing in NCSSM (17-0). The school is composed entirely of juniors and seniors and won 1A state championships 2007-2010, as well as playing in two more state finals (2011-12) before moving up to 2A this year.
“People at our school value success, a lot,” said Gabrielle Beaudry, the lone senior on NCSSM’s team. “It’s always in people’s heads that we have to reach the state final.”
NCSSM’s Beaudry, Rebecca Liu, Anna Xu and Rachel Xu all won in straight sets Wednesday.
Carrboro’s undefeated sophomore Abby Rader (12-0) helped push the match into doubles by winning 6-0, 6-2 over Jesse Huang (12-2) at No. 3 singles.
Carrboro junior Danielle Sawyer (9-0) provided the guttiest performance of the evening as she rallied from a first-set disaster to win at No. 1 singles, giving NCSSM’s Lydia Yuan (13-1) her first loss of the year.
Sawyer was down 3-0 in the third-set tiebreaker before she served to tie it at 5. She never trailed after that, and when she hit a backhand winner past Yuan for a 9-8 lead, she allowed herself a little fist pump and a soft “Yah!”
“That’s the most emotion I’ve seen her show,” Noyes said.
Noyes noted that Carrboro’s first six players comprised a ninth-grader (Emine Arcasoy), a sophomore (Rader) and juniors Sawyer, Olivia Shaheen, Allison Hutchinson and Jordan Owen.
“We don’t have a senior on the team, so hopefully we’ll beat them next time,” Noyes said. “I’m sure we’ll see them again.”