Tennis team gets first playoff win in 15 years

Published 9:35 am Thursday, November 3, 2016

The first 14 victories for Davie’s tennis team led to an attention-grabbing conference championship. The 15th was another epic moment.

Davie’s 5-4 win over visiting Ardrey Kell in the first round of the state duals on Oct. 25 was a milestone for the War Eagles. It represented their first state-playoff win in 15 years. Their only other postseason win was against Vance in 2001. They came in with a 1-10 record in state-playoff matches, including a nine-match losing streak. They came close last year, but lost 5-4 to Lake Norman. This is the 27th year of the NCHSAA state duals.

Davie remained perfect at 15-0 while playing its first dual-team match in 22 days, and the War Eagles’ closest win of the season sent them to the state’s round of 16.

“Ardrey Kell was an excellent team from top to bottom,” coach John Bullins said. “We feel very fortunate to have come away with a victory. One of my favorite phrases is ‘survive and advance.’”

The War Eagles squeaked out a 4-2 edge in singles. No. 1 seed Laura Becker and No. 2 Sierra Foster triumphed with ease, the scores being 6-0, 6-2 and 6-2, 6-0, respectively.

“Laura was her usual self,” Bullins said. “She was hitting all the corners. Sierra played lights out. I mean her game was on.”

Amanda Ngo got it done at No. 4, winning 6-1, 7-5. Davie dodged a big bullet when Claire Myers pulled out a 6-1, 2-6 (11-9) tiebreaker at No. 6.

Becker (21-0), A. Ngo (13-0) and Myers (14-0) protected their spotless records.

“Claire set the stage for the win. It’s as simple as that,” Bullins said. “If she had not taken No. 6 singles in the tiebreaker, we might be telling a whole different story right now about the Davie tennis program at this stage of the season. It’s funny how one little twist of fate can change things, and now we get to celebrate a monumental moment in girls tennis history at Davie.”

When Becker/Foster suffered their first loss in five matches at No. 1 doubles, Davie’s lead was trimmed to 4-3. But the War Eagles didn’t have sweat through suspense for very long, thanks to a convincing 10-4 match-clinching victory from the Ngo sisters at No. 2 doubles.

Senior Jennifer Ngo had absorbed her first singles loss of the year – dropping her record to 13-1 – but she didn’t let that affect her play in doubles. Jennifer and Amanda put the outcome to bed and climbed above .500 as partners (7-6).

“Jennifer and Amanda were in control the entire match,” Bullins said. “I mean they went to work. It was impressive. Jennifer could have easily been frustrated because she lost her first singles match, but she doesn’t have a defeated attitude. She wants to get right back on track. She focussed on doubles and she and her sister took it. It’s been a difficult year for them in doubles. They’ve struggled a little bit. For them to clinch this match with their solid victory really means a lot – for them and for the team.”

An unsung hero was senior Annie Kinder. She lost a back-and-forth battle at No. 5 singles. The scores were 2-6, 7-6 (10-8), 8-10. By coming up with a valiant comeback and taking the Knights’ player to the wire, she forced her opponent to expend considerable energy. That same player had to face the Ngo sisters in doubles.

“I’m so proud of Annie,” he said. “Once again, she battled so hard and came so close. In an odd sense, her battling their No. 5 player was a factor in Jennifer and Amanda winning in doubles, because that player wasn’t as sharp in doubles. She was tired. Annie put her on the ropes.”

The Knights went 12-5 after going 12-2 in the Southern Meck Conference. They finished second to Charlotte Catholic. Their only previous losses were to Myers Park, the No. 1 seed in the Western Regional, and Catholic, a dominant program year in and year out.

Becker’s remarkable run ended in the quarterfinals of the state tournament on Oct. 28. The 1-1 showing in Raleigh was the same as 2015, and it dropped her record to 22-1.

She opened with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 win over Briana Taranto of Millbrook. She had to overcome some difficulties to advance to the final eight.

“She felt a little frustrated,” Bullins said. “She felt like she could have played better. But she was able to gut it out and get back on track in the third set.”

In the quarterfinals, Becker lost 6-2, 6-4 to Lauren Gish of Lake Norman. Gish went on to claim state runner-up. Meanwhile, Becker was gracious in defeat.

“Laura is always looking ahead – what she needs to improve on to push her game to the highest level,” Bullins said. “She’s always thinking positive and always flashing that smile.”