When the 2014 season began, Lake Norman Charter girls’ tennis coach Jenny Gomez figured she’d have a pretty good team.
The Knights showed just how good they were, capping an undefeated season with the school’s first N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A state dual-team championship.
Lake Norman Charter (17-0) beat previously-undefeated N.C. School of Science and Math 5-2 in the state title match on Nov. 1 at N.C. State’s Isenhour Tennis Center in Raleigh.
“I knew they were capable of pulling it off, but I wasn’t sure what was going to happen,” Gomez said.
It was one of the Knights’ regular-season matches – a 6-3 victory Sept. 9 over Salisbury, which had won six consecutive 2A dual-team state titles and seven of the past eight – that gave Gomez the indication that this year’s team could go far in the dual-team playoffs.
“I really kind of thought we had a chance then,” Gomez said. “Last year, that was the team we lost to in the (dual-team semifinals). After we beat them – and we beat them pretty solidly – that’s when I felt, ‘OK, we really have a chance; we can do this.’
“I still wasn’t sure – once you make it to states, you don’t know how other teams stack up – but once we beat (Salisbury) the first time, that gave us a big boost in confidence.”
To get to the state dual-team finals, Lake Norman Charter beat four other teams in the playoffs – Shelby 7-2, Newton-Conover 6-0, West Davidson 6-0 and Salisbury, again, this time 5-2 – to set up its title match against NCSSM, which had won NCHSAA 1A dual-team titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010, and was making its sixth consecutive state finals appearance.
But the Knights’ players were already in state finals mode.
All six of Lake Norman Charter’s starters had advanced to the NCHSAA 2A state individual tournament, with two of them – junior Hannah Archer and her sister, freshman Olivia – winning the state doubles championship.
“That really gave them a boost of confidence,” Gomez said. “All my girls were playing the No. 1 or No. 2 girls from the other teams, and they were beating them. They were really thinking like, ‘Oh, we can do this.’”
The Archer sisters – both ranked among the top 10 in the state in their age groups – accounted for three of the Knights’ match wins against NCSSM, including the deciding 10-0 victory over Lydia Yuan and Rebecca Liu at No. 1 doubles.
However, Lake Norman Charter needed the rest of its lineup to step up.
After Hannah Archer won at No. 1 singles and Olivia Archer took the No. 2 singles match, freshman Lauren Bush won at No. 3 singles to put the Knights up 3-0. Sophomore Lauren Loveless then came up with a big win for Lake Norman Charter at No. 5 singles, beating NCSSM’s Rachel Xu in three sets, 6-2, 5-7, 10-5, to give the Knights a 4-2 edge heading into the doubles matches.
“We really needed Loveless’ match to win, and she pulled through,” Gomez said of Loveless, who was named the 2A state dual-team finals’ most valuable player. “She was putting us on the edge of our seats, but I know I can count on her.
“If we didn’t get that point, I don’t know how the match would’ve gone. It would’ve been tough for us to get two doubles points.”
Gomez is already thinking ahead to next year and a potential repeat, as all six of Lake Norman Charter’s starters return. Hannah Archer and No. 6 singles player Tiffany Onia will be the lone seniors, Loveless will be a junior, and Bush, Olivia Archer and No. 4 singles player Charanya Uppalapati will all be sophomores.
“That’s what we’ve been talking about,” Gomez said. “We should be able to do this again.”
• Both Community School of Davidson and Pine Lake Prep advanced to the second round of the NCHSAA 1A state tournament before losing.
Community School of Davidson, which finished the season 10-3, defeated East Montgomery 8-1 in the first round, but lost to Misenheimer’s Gray Stone Day 5-3 in the second round.
Pine Lake Prep, which closed at 9-6, beat North Stanly 7-2 in the first round, then lost to Elkin 5-1 in the next round.
• Hough had two tough matches in its draw in the NCHSAA 4A state tournament. The Huskies, which finished 10-4, edged Jamestown Ragsdale 5-4 in the first round, but lost to Asheville Roberson 5-3 in the second round.
Lake Norman, which went through the regular season undefeated, was upset by wild-card qualifier Providence High 5-4 in the first round. The Wildcats finished the season 16-1.
• Statesville Christian lost in the second round of the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 1A state tournament, but had three players named to the all-state team.
Statesville Christian, which finished the season 10-6, defeated Hickory Christian 9-0 in the first round, but lost to Raleigh’s Trinity Academy 5-4 in the second round at Barton College in Wilson.
Named to the NCISAA all-state team were Jacklyn Googins, Becky Barker and Jordan Peters.
• Davidson Day, which ended the season at 5-7, lost to Gaston Day 9-0 in the first round of the NCISAA 2A state tournament.
• Cannon School was upset by Saint Mary’s School 5-4 in the first round of the NCISAA 3A state tournament. Cannon finished 10-5.