Last year, Cox Mill High tennis player Sarah Jiang came within a match of an undefeated season and an individual state singles championship as a freshman.Yet Jiang – one of the state’s top 10 players in her age group – isn’t one to dwell on past losses. But it has motivated last year’s all-Cabarrus News player of the year to work even more on her game.“I don’t really think about last year at all,” said Jiang, 15. “The more I think about it, the more pressured I get. I just play every match and try to win every match when I go on the court. I just try to do my best and help the team as much as I can.”Jiang won the South Piedmont 3A and 3A Midwest Regional singles titles last year, then made it to the championship round in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A state tournament.But in the 3A singles final, Jiang ran up against Dalton McMichael High’s Masey Demoss, losing 6-2, 6-2. That was Jiang’s first and only match loss of the 2012 season. She ended with a 21-1 record.“She was just a better and more experienced player than I was,” Jiang said.A lot of players can say the same about Jiang, who took up tennis at age 7 and played her first U.S. Tennis Association-sanctioned junior tournament two years later.She became Cox Mill’s No. 1 player her first year in high school and led the Chargers to a third-place finish in the SPC standings, behind Northwest Cabarrus and Jay M. Robinson.“Sometimes players of that caliber think high school is not good enough for them,” Cox Mill head coach Christi Bruinsma said. “But (Jiang) is such a wonderful person; she’s not lording it over the other girls that she’s so good. She doesn’t come in with that air. She’s very humble and very hardworking.”Jiang works at her game almost year-round, training and playing in junior-level tournaments. And the results show up in her level of play.Since the beginning of the year, Jiang has won three USTA-sanctioned tournaments and advanced to the finals in three others, including two major junior tournaments in North Carolina: the N.C. Junior Clay Court Championships in late July, and the N.C. Junior Summer State Championships in early August.That success has seen Jiang’s USTA ranking rise to No. 5 in North Carolina in the 16-and-under girls singles division. That has motivated her Cox Mill teammates to work on their games as well.“It definitely boosts our morale and gives all the girls a level of confidence and a level of wanting to work harder,” Bruinsma said. “When they see Sarah out here, they want to do their best. They know they really have to work. We want to be competitive (in singles) from No. 1 all the way to No. 6, so it makes the girls work harder.”The Chargers, who won the league’s team title in 2011, will have some different competition this season, as conference realignment shuffled the makeup of the South Piedmont 3A. The conference lost three schools: Kannapolis’ A.L. Brown and Jay M. Robinson both moved up to 4A, while Mount Pleasant dropped to 2A; it gained China Grove’s Carson High plus East Rowan, South Rowan and West Rowan.“We’re going to be competitive … but we’re new to the Rowan teams. We haven’t played them before,” Bruinsma said. “We don’t know what to expect from them.“Everybody thinks that we win all the time because of Sarah, but she’s only one point. All the girls know they have to contribute. We’re not just riding on Sarah’s coattails.”And if her teammates need a little help or advice, Jiang is right there to give it to them.“I just try to use whatever I do to help them,” Jiang said. “Sometimes I’m coaching them a little bit during practice. Or if they’re playing someone I’ve played in junior tournaments before, I’ll tell them what their weaknesses are.”
Wednesday, Sep. 04, 2013
Cox Mill’s Jiang ready to take the next set
Kiser: 704-895-3662; Twitter: @BKiser_CLTObs
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