Cabarrus

Tiger seniors aim to defend their SPC doubles title

Seniors Taylor Carpenter and Emily Walters say they enjoy playing doubles more than singles.

Had an early-season coaching decision not been made last year, Mount Pleasant's top girls' tennis players might feel differently.

It took Tigers' coach Lori Honeycutt a couple of matches at the start of the 2010 season to settle on Carpenter and Walters as her top pair.

Despite that, they won 15 of their 18 matches, going on to win the South Piedmont Conference tournament and reaching the second round at regionals.

Neither Carpenter nor Walters had picked up a tennis racket before reaching Mount Pleasant as freshmen.

Honeycutt knew Carpenter as a pretty good softball player and recruited her athleticism to the tennis team, while Walters joined the team because her sister, Sarah, was giving it a try.

Walters also became a standout track and field athlete at Mount Pleasant, having run a leg on the school-record setting 1,600-meter relay team.

Carpenter and Walters cracked the tennis team's starting lineup as sophomores.

Carpenter enjoyed a fine season with doubles partner Elizabeth Parker as they finished second in the SPC tournament and advanced to the regional tournament.

In theory, Walters had a doubles partner that made perfect sense for her: her sister Sarah, then a junior.

"It didn't work out," said Walters. "You can say more stuff at her than others. We got too mad at each other."

Honeycutt approached 2010 looking for new partners for the two sisters. Carpenter just happed to also be looking for a new partner after Parker moved to Georgia.

Paired with two different teammates, Walters won her first two doubles matches. Honeycutt paired Carpenter and Sarah Walters, the Tigers' top two singles players, but the duo did not seem to work as they went winless in their first two matches.

That's when Honeycutt decided to match Carpenter and her current partner. They seemed to mesh and won their first two matches.

After a loss to Concord, Carpenter and Walters won their next four before falling to a pair from Hickory Ridge, who they beat in their first match. The loss inspired the duo to play harder and they reeled off nine straight victories through the first round of the regional tournament.

At the SPC tournament, Carpenter and Walters grabbed pro-set wins in the first two rounds, then beat Cox Mill in two straight sets in a third round semifinal match. In the finals, they beat a Concord team in a draining three-set contest.

"That was probably the highlight of my year," said Carpenter.

Like most doubles teams, Carpenter and Walters play off of each others' strengths and weaknesses.

Nicknamed "The Flamingo" because of her often-used one-legged strokes, Carpenter prefers her backhand side and volleying at the net. The quick-footed Walters likes her forehand side and tracking down shots from one side of the baseline to the other.

"They have really good chemistry on and off the court," said Honeycutt. "They really balance each other out. They keep each other energized."

In singles, Carpenter and Walters will challenge each other for Mount Pleasant's No. 1 spot throughout the season. In doubles, they said they feel that they could defend their conference title and possibly advance deeper in the regional tournament.

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