Editor’s note: This Fall’s Finest highlights high school athletes with outstanding performances. Information published today includes statistics through Sept. 4.
Jenna Thompson, South Mecklenburg, girls tennis, Fr.: The Sabres’ freshman has wasted no time, exploding onto the high school tennis scene. She is unbeaten in both singles’ and doubles’ play for South Mecklenburg (4-1) this season.
Thompson got her biggest win at South Meck, when she beat Myers Park senior, No. 1, Maddie Weber (her only loss to date), 6-3, 6-1 on Aug. 29. Thompson, 14, will turn 15 in December.
Thompson also has been selected to represent North Carolina in the Southern Cup, Sept. 19-21 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Only the top three players from nine, Southern states are selected.
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Thompson is already listed as a five-star recruit, according to tennisrecruiting.net, and is ranked No. 1 in the state (juniors) for both the 14- and 16-year old age groups. She’s also ranked No. 13 in the southeast and No. 38 in the nation in her class (2020).
Olivia Archer, Lake Norman Charter, girls tennis, Jr.: The Knights’ junior led the two-time, 2A state champions to their 37th straight victory, in a 6-3 win over 4A, Hough.
Archer beat Hough’s No. 1 Livia Popa, 6-1, 6-1 in singles, while also teaming with Lake Norman Charter sophomore, Zoe Panizza (6-3, 3-6, 10-2) to get a win in doubles.
The Knights (3-0) this season haven’t lost a match since Oct. 30, 2013, when their season ended in a 2A Western Regional final loss to Salisbury (5-1).
Archer also is the two-time, defending 2A state doubles’ champion, but must prove she can do it without her older sister, Hannah Archer (now playing at Washington & Lee University).
Paul Gennett, Charlotte Catholic cross country, Sr.: Five steps into the Eye Opener Invitational race (Sept. 3) in Spartanburg, S.C., another runner accidentally stepped on the shoe of Charlotte Catholic senior, Paul Gennett. The shoe and spikes came off Gennett’s foot.
Some runners might have stopped, but Gennett pushed on and completed the race with one shoe on, finishing in 18:34.60. That time ranked him 73rd overall and eighth-best on his team. But it was his refusal to give up, despite several bloody blisters on his right foot, that endeared him to his team, who won the team title.
Charlotte Catholic cross country coach, Deb Rubinich, presented the Eye Opener team championship trophy to Gennett.
But Gennett (who has a 4.38 grade-point average) says he wants to put the trophy along with his lost shoe -- which he got back after the race – in the Charlotte Catholic school trophy case, where the entire story of perseverance can be remembered.
Cougar teammates, senior Chad Stirling (finished third overall, 16:42.54), junior Andrew Santos (sixth-place) and sophomore, Dante McCree (eighth-place) also helped lead the way to the team title.
Lindsey Lanier, Providence, cross country, Sr.: The Providence senior had a big weekend on the course, finishing as runner-up in the Trojan Invitational at Northwestern High in Rock Hill. Her time was 19:33.40.
Lanier also led the Panthers to a second-place team-finish with teammate, Sarah Parrish, finishing third, individually. She finished ninth (19:44) in the prestigious, Providence Invitational earlier this season.
David Mbuyu, Garinger, boys soccer, Jr.: The Garinger junior forward has proven to be one of the top goal scorers in the state with 13 goals in his first four games this season.
Mbuyu has had three hat tricks and scored a career-best seven goals in a victory over Harding. He also had three goals in wins over Hopewell and West Mecklenburg.
Mbuyu is the younger brother of two-time Charlotte Observer boys’ soccer player of the year, Tresor Mbuyu (who scored 91 goals in two seasons at Garinger). Tresor now is a sophomore on the Liberty University soccer team.
Moon Cheong, Charlotte Latin, girls golf, Sr.: The Charlotte Latin senior shot a season-best one-under 34 at Providence Country Club to help the Hawks beat Forsyth Country Day and get off to a 2-0 start in match play.
Cheong, a recent, Dartmouth College commit, is averaging 37.25 per nine holes this high school season. She also is ranked No. 20 in the state on the junior circuit, according to the Tarheel Youth Golf Association.
Sehrena Hull, Davidson Day, volleyball, Sr.: The Patriots’ senior outside hitter, and Virginia Tech commit, has been all over the court for Davidson Day this season, helping the team to a 10-2 start through Sept. 5.
In the period from Aug. 29 to Sept. 4, Hull led the Patriots to wins over Carolina Day, Westminster Catawba and SouthLake Christian. She averaged 11.3 kills, 11.3 digs and 3.3 aces per match.
Hull showed her versatility with 14 kills and seven digs against Carolina Day, 12 digs and seven aces against Westminster Catawba and 10 kills and 15 digs in the win over SouthLake Christian.
Sarah Billiard, Covenant Day, volleyball, Sr.: The University of Virginia commit, and all-state outside hitter, had her best match to date – with 24 kills, 25 digs, five aces, two blocks, two assists and 20 service receptions (season highs in all six categories) – in a 3-2 win over Nation Ford, S.C.
Billiard leads Covenant Day with 177 kills, 158 digs and seven blocks this season.
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: email@example.com.
This fall’s finest
In most cases, the athletes featured will come from sports that don’t get a lot of recognition. However, the goal is to recognize excellence. If you want to suggest someone to be included in This Fall’s Finest column, send email to Jay Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org.