BURLINGTON Ardrey Kells girls tennis team has made its matchups against opponents work for them most of the season.
But the matchups didnt work for the Knights in Saturdays NCHSAA state 4A dual-team championship match, losing to Cary Panther Creek 5-1 at the Burlington Tennis Center.
Ardrey Kell (15-1) saw its shot at an undefeated season and its first state title end after a two-hour battle, with the Catamounts (21-1) taking five of six singles matches and ending things without playing the doubles matches.
(Panther Creeks) players outplayed us, Knights coach Laura Pratt said. We played as hard as we could possibly play, and Im very proud of our team. They gave it 110 percent, and they didnt lose because they gave up. Where we lost is because we were outplayed. Theyre a very talented team.
Ardrey Kells lone point came at No. 6 singles, where senior Ghada Bedwan beat Panther Creeks Loren Kim 6-1, 7-5.
But it could have been much closer the outcome of two singles matches could have forced the 4A dual-team final into doubles play for the first time since 2011.
The Catamounts won three singles matches easily Sammi Smith beat Ardrey Kells Hailey Simon 6-1, 6-1 at No. 2 singles; Jordan Strickland downed Havyn Colon 6-0, 6-1 at No. 3 singles; and Aishani Tingare defeated Jasmine Woods 6-1, 6-1 at No. 5 singles.
The other two were significantly closer.
Knights No. 1 player Sarah Yuan bounced back from losing the first set to even her match against Megan Smith, only to lose a third-set tiebreaker 6-2, 3-6, 10-7.
Then, in the deciding and at just over two hours, the longest match, Ardrey Kells Olivia Hooks took an early lead over Orla Labiche, only to lose 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 at No. 4 singles.
A lot of the girls havent played in front of this big of a crowd, Pratt said. So we talked about putting the blinders on. We wanted them to focus on the court, and playing each point like it was match point.
But thats where (Panther Creeks) experience helped them. Their top players have played a lot of tournaments, and a lot of our girls are just younger.
• In the 2A final, Salisbury (18-3) won its sixth straight championship, beating Durham N.C. School of Science and Math 5-1. Salisbury only lost at No. 1 singles, swept the remainder of the singles matches and didnt have to play doubles. Salisbury was in the finals for the ninth straight year adn are 10-3 in dual team finals.
• In 3A, Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons lost at No. 1 singles but swept the remaining singles matches for a 5-1 win over Weddington. Weddingtons Heidi Swope, won the NCHSAA 3A individual singles title last week, won her match 6-0, 6-0.
Gibbons finished 28-1 and won its second state title in five appearances. Weddington finished at 13-5.
Kiser: 704-895-3662; Twitter: @Bkiser_CLTObs.
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