Becker regional tennis champ for 4th time
Published 10:52 am Thursday, October 25, 2018
There’s an air of invincibility and inevitability about Laura Becker. Invincible because the star senior for Davie’s tennis team is 69-2 in singles between 2016-18, with both losses coming in the 2016-17 state tournaments. Inevitable because of the feeling that she will find a way, even if she’s behind 4-1 in the first set of the regional final.
The 4-A Midwest Regional at Grimsley High on Oct. 19-20 was just another day at the office for Becker, who captured the regional singles championship for the fourth time.
Her scores in the first three rounds were 6-0, 6-2; 6-0, 6-2; and 6-0, 2-0 as Reagan’s Caroline Richter, who suffered a calf/shin injury earlier in the week, withdrew in the second set in the semifinals.
“(Richter) just couldn’t move anymore,” Davie coach Collin Ferebee said. “You could tell she was in pain with every movement. I felt so bad for Caroline.”
Becker met Hough’s Olivia Popa in the finals. There’s almost never any drama during a Becker match, but she found herself behind 1-4, love-30 in the first set. It was reminiscent of last year’s regional final against Mooresville’s Julia Abrams, who jumped on top of Becker early before losing 6-4, 6-2.
“I was like if she did it last year, she can turn it around,” Ferebee said. “Laura made a bunch of mistakes. Shots were sailing two or three feet long or she was dumping them into the net. (Popa) was hitting good; she was hitting deep. Laura wasn’t moving well and spraying balls all over. It was not pretty.”
Becker was playing like someone who battled sickness all week. “I was playing less patiently,” she said. “I was making unforced errors.”
Becker found her stride. She rallied to tie at 4. She dropped the next game but won the next three to nail down a 7-5 win. In the second set, she rolled through Popa like a Mack truck, winning 6-2.
“She just won’t let herself lose,” Ferebee said. “She ended up getting 13 of the next 14 games (after falling behind 4-1 in the first set).”
“I started playing more consistently with less errors,” Becker said. “I focussed on taking it one point at a time and not worrying what the score as. Also my serve was better.”
Seven of eight sets were breezes for Becker, and to think that this was the best time to face her as she was under the weather all week, so much so that she had to sit out Davie’s first-round state duals match earlier in the week.
“She has not looked like Laura in a week,” Ferebee said. “The only thing that’s there is her fighting mentality and her refusal to quit. She’s been playing well for most people’s standards, but not terribly well for Laura’s standards.”
The four-time champion went 15-0 against regional competition from 2015-18. She punished those opponents by an aggregate score of 172-31. This weekend she will carry a 20-0 singles record into the state tournament.
Seniors Sierra Foster and Amanda Ngo competed in doubles in the regional. They opened with a comfortable 6-2, 6-3 first-round win. Needing another win to qualify for the state, they fell short, losing 7-6 (8-6), 6-2.
They came excruciatingly close in the first set, jumping to a 5-3 lead but dropping three of the next four games. “I think when they dropped the tiebreaker they had a letdown (in the second set),” Ferebee said.
The loss drew the curtain on two careers that helped define the greatest four-year run in Davie girls tennis history. The 2015-18 War Eagles went 56-8, going 13-3, 16-1, 14-2 and 13-2 with seven Central Piedmont Conference championships (four tournaments, three regular seasons).
“I let them have some moments with their parents and talk it out,” Ferebee said. “I went up to them and said: ‘Look, you had two of the best careers in Davie tennis history. I know you’re upset right now, but you have nothing to hang your head about. You have played great, you have contributed to this program so much, and we’re all very proud of you.’”
For her career, Foster went 53-18 in singles and 31-10 in doubles, winning two CPC doubles titles with Ngo. Over her career, Ngo went 58-4 in singles and 37-11 in doubles, winning three CPC doubles titles, including one with sister Jennifer in 2016.
Other than the glossy numbers, what made Foster and Ngo so special?
“Sierra was going to do what she had to do, and she was receptive to my feedback,” Ferebee said. “When she wants something, she’s going to find a way to do it. From the beginning of her junior year to the end of her senior year, I saw her mentally mature tennis-wise. She would lose her head a little bit at the beginning of her junior year. When I walked up to the fence this year, she would go: ‘I know. I’ve got it. I’m not worried.’ Changing that mindset is a huge thing to do in a one-on-one sport.
“The way Amanda plays is unconventional, but I love it. She hits a lot of slices. She hits a lot of what would be junk balls in baseball that you don’t see a whole lot of in high school girls tennis. She shows some emotion without going overboard and gets the team pumped up. I always could count on her. Every now and then I’d go up and talk to her – she’d have moments here and there – and say: ‘Amanda, you haven’t lost yet this year; you’re not going to lose now.’ She would go back out there and find a way to win.”
Becker – the engine, the one who drove the fast car in the regular season and CPC Tournament – was sick and unable to play in the first round of the dual team state playoffs against visiting Northwest Guilford on Oct. 17. It was like going to a Billy Joel concert with no Billy Joel.
Davie hardly resembled the team that carved out a 13-1 record during the regular season, losing 5-1. While Becker built records of 16-0 in singles and 8-0 in doubles, Davie was essentially up 2-0 before every match began.
“She kept trying, but if Laura Becker says she can’t play, she can’t play,” Ferebee said. “I didn’t want her to play unhealthy just to try to win a match. That’s not what high school sports are about.”
The Vikings – who lost 5-4 to Reagan and 6-3 to Reynolds, two of Davie’s CPC rivals – improved to 10-5 after finishing second in the Metro Conference. Davie shared the CPC’s regular-season title and won the CPC Tournament with ease.
The match was settled in singles. Davie’s only win came from No. 4 Aisulu Ball (6-0, 6-0). It was a rough day for the CPC, which went 0-4 in the first round. Reagan lost 6-3 to Mooresville; Reynolds lost 6-0 to Myers Park; and West Forsyth lost 5-1 to Page.
“At worst, I honestly think we would have had a 4-2 lead (with Becker in the lineup),” Ferebee said. “Laura would have won. Sierra’s match was a tossup (at No. 2). Amanda would have won (at No. 3). Emery (Rosenbaum) would have won (at No. 4). And Aisulu would have won (at No. 5). I think the final would have been 5-2 if Laura played.
“Everybody played well. It’s just not good when you have to play without your star.”