Sally Moore was intent on becoming the best player on the Concord High girls' tennis team this season.
She didn't realize she might become the top player in the South Piedmont Conference in the process.
A bevy of senior talent having graduated from Cabarrus County's teams from last season - including two of Concord's best players - Moore's extra off-season training has paid off, earning her conference player of the year honors.
In her first year as the Spiders' No. 1 player, the junior lost just once in conference matches. A returning regional participant, Moore aims to return to the 3A Midwest regional with doubles partner Gabby Beaudry, an all-conference sophomore player.
After playing in the third flight on Concord's conference winning team last year, Moore knew her natural progression would be to ascend to the Spiders' top spot after the departure of SPC Player of the Year Kathryn Brown and Sara Holbrooks, Moore's double partner for part of the season.
As a sophomore last season, Moore was named all-conference after posting a 12-3 record in the league, including a 3-1 mark when she filled in for the injured Holbrooks at No. 2. One of her most important victories came with Beaudry in a doubles match against Cox Mill.
Trying to secure an undefeated season in the SPC, the Spiders were split 3-3 against Cox Mill coming out of the singles matches. The teams split the first two completed doubles matches, leaving Moore and Beaudry with the burden of lifting Concord to a team victory. They fell behind in their eight-game pro-set match 6-2 but rallied to win 8-6.
When Holbrooks returned from injury, she combined with Moore to reach the regionals. They won an opening-round match against a team from China Grove Carson, but a Weddington team knocked them from the tournament in the second round.
During the offseason, Moore participated in private individual and group lessons to improve her serving, shot placement and overall consistency. Concord coach Jill Gardiner has recognized the improvement, which has continued over the course of the high school season.
"She really wants to learn what you're trying to tell her," said Gardiner. "She doesn't just run a drill, she works on mechanics and tries to change things."
Moore has hardly been challenged in singles play this season. In all but two of her regular-season matches, she disposed of opponents by surrendering less than four games between the two sets.
But the matches against Cox Mill freshman Imani Fountain have told a different tale. In their first meeting, Fountain won easily 6-1, 6-1. In their second match, Moore grabbed a 6-4, 6-4 decision.
"In the first match, she blew me out of the water," said Moore.
"I didn't know how to react to her style of hitting; a lot of topspin. Any shot I gave her, not only could she get to it but she could hit it back hard.
"The second time was a home match, which was definitely different. I felt more confident. Since I got a couple of games off her the first time, I knew it wasn't hopeless."
Even though her singles game has improved - including the development of a drop shot from the baseline - the left-handed Moore is still more confident as a doubles player. On Oct. 21-22, she and Beaudry will represent Concord on their home court at Les Myers Park.
Next spring and summer, Moore hopes to advance her game even more. She plans on playing regularly in U.S.Tennis Association tournaments.