Mission accomplished: War Eagle tennis wins third straight CPC title

Published 8:05 am Monday, October 9, 2023

By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

In August, the Davie girls tennis team began a quest to accomplish something that had only been done twice in program history – win three straight regular-season championships.

Mission accomplished.

The War Eagles are an eye-popping 37-1 in the Central Piedmont Conference over the past three seasons, something no one could have imagined when Davie was struggling along at 6-9 and 5-7 in the 2019 and spring of 2021 seasons, respectively.

The War Eagles cemented their three-peat by thrashing bottom-feeders Parkland and Glenn last week.

“It’s the girls. I don’t care if you’re John Wooden, if you don’t have athletes who are willing to come in and work, you’re not going to win,” coach Collin Ferebee said. “I thought this was going to be a rebuilding year. I thought we’d scare Reynolds and Reagan. But man, 14-1 and almost 15-0 in a rebuild year? These other schools want what we’re building right now because we’re in a down year and they’re worried about us. That’s a testament to the girls coming in during the summer and hitting the weight room and working out and hitting the track and getting on the courts. We have really embraced the mantra that we’re going to win the day. We don’t want second place. When your whole team is ‘we don’t want second place,’ really great things can happen.”

When Davie hosted Parkland on Oct. 2, Elliot Newsome, Corbin Drum, Bailey Aderhold, Leah Gibson, Ali Cranfill and Gabby Thompson all won 6-0, 6-0 in singles. Lena Parsley and Gilda Pichardo tacked on an 8-1 win at No. 2 doubles. Parkland forfeited at No. 3 doubles.

Two days later at home, Davie breezed 9-0 over Glenn. The regular singles lineup posted a bunch of 6-0, 6-0 scores. In doubles, Newsome/Thompson, Cranfill/Brooklyn Lakey and Bethany Jacobs/Olivia Swisher won by a combined 24-2.

The seven-match winning streak at the end lifted Davie to 14-1 overall and 13-1 in the CPC, and Ferebee’s seven-year coaching record rose to 80-23.

Newsome entered the CPC Tournament with a 13-2 record at No. 1. The junior is 36-7 in her stellar career.

“Elliot is a heck of a player,” Ferebee said. Every year she’s gotten better. Every year she’s improved as a leader. She started kind of timid as a freshman, as most do, but this year when something needs to be done, she’s like: ‘Hey, we want to win, let’s go.’ It’s really impressive to see that growth from her.”

Drum is a budding star at No. 2, the freshman winning 14 of 15 matches.

“She’s a tournament player, but when you put a uniform on for your school as a freshman, that’s a whole new level of pressure that she hadn’t really experienced before,” Ferebee said. “Playing against 17-, 18-years-olds is a different ballgame. I think she came in a little nervous and anxious about the pressure, but man, about halfway through she started destroying her opponents. It was a whole new Corbin and every coach was like: ‘That No. 2 is going to be a problem.’”

Aderhold went 12-3 last year as a freshman, but that was at the four, five and six seeds. At the beginning of the season, Ferebee was a bit concerned about how the sophomore would fare at No. 3. She has responded brilliantly and posted a 13-2 record.

“I have never once doubted Bailey’s athleticism and her competitive fire,” Ferebee said. “I have seen how much she’s improved since day one of freshman workouts. But I was a little nervous about her jumping from six to three because that’s a big jump for any player. I didn’t doubt that she wouldn’t go out there and give Davie County her all, but man, she’s had a wonderful season at three. She had some tough losses in there, but she never let it get her down, she never lingered on them. She took her lumps and said: ‘I can’t do this again, coach. How do we fix it?’ She listened and she got better.”

Davie has two dynamite freshmen in the lineup, including Gibson at No. 4, where she has carved out a 12-2 mark.

“In the last 18 months or so, she’s really taken (tennis) more seriously,” Ferebee said. “She’s gone out and hit with people on her own. This year she’s shown an excellent amount of growth. I’ve had parents tell me: ‘Leah has really gotten a lot better this year.’”

Cranfill and Thompson are two seniors who have enjoyed breakout years. After only getting one start as a junior, Cranfill has delivered 10 wins in 11 tries at four and five this year. Thompson went 4-3 as a freshman, 3-1 as a sophomore and didn’t see any singles action as a junior. How about this year? She’s 11-3 at five and six.

“Ali had to shake off some rust (after missing matches with sickness) at the beginning,” he said. “But after that, some of those matches took two hours, but Ali was not going to lose. She never started regularly before her senior year, but nine times out of 10 I don’t have to worry about Ali at five. It might take awhile, but I don’t have to worry about Ali. She’s going to find a way to win.

“(Thompson) was a spot starter in the past. She definitely had some nerves in the beginning, but once she got a couple matches under her belt, she knew she could win. There was a day at practice where something clicked; it was right after the first Tabor match. I don’t know what it was, but she’s played lights out since then. The Gab at the end of the season was a totally different Gab of the first three years. I’m super proud of her.”

And oh yeah, don’t forget sophomore Casey Cao, who has filled in occasionally at No. 6 and come through every time (5-0 record).

“She won three matches against Reynolds and Reagan,” he said. “I mean, that’s a heck of an introduction to the starting lineup. What I love about Casey is she’s got that competitive drive and she’s going to win for Davie County. While she didn’t start a ton this year, Casey’s jump from her freshman to her sophomore year has been remarkable. She’s been hitting with tennis pros. You can definitely tell she’s got some skill and she’s ready to step into a spot next year and help us win again.”

Davie’s first three-peat happened from 1975-77 in the North Piedmont Conference. Then Davie won three straight crowns from 2016-18.