Lake Norman & Mooresville

Defending N.C. tennis champion Knights looking ahead

The Lake Norman Charter girls’ tennis team returns all six starters from last year’s team, which went 18-0 and won the NCHSAA 2A dual-team title. With coach Jenny Gomez, right, are: front row from left, Olivia Archer, Lauren Loveless, Tiffany Onia; back row from left, Lauren Bush, Charanya Uppalapati and Hannah Archer.
The Lake Norman Charter girls’ tennis team returns all six starters from last year’s team, which went 18-0 and won the NCHSAA 2A dual-team title. With coach Jenny Gomez, right, are: front row from left, Olivia Archer, Lauren Loveless, Tiffany Onia; back row from left, Lauren Bush, Charanya Uppalapati and Hannah Archer. BILL KISER

Lake Norman Charter girls’ tennis coach Jenny Gomez says she doesn’t want her players thinking about last season.

Not because the Knights had a bad year; far from it. Lake Norman Charter enters the 2015 season as defending NCHSAA 2A dual-team champions, with all six starters returning from an undefeated team.

Yet that’s in the past for Gomez.

“To me, it’s a new year,” Gomez said. “It’s not that I want to forget what we did last year, but it’s a brand-new year. It’s a clean slate.

“At this level, you always have to be ready, you always have to be on your toes as to what’s out there.”

The Knights went 17-0 last season, capped with a 5-2 victory against previously undefeated N.C. School of Science and Math in the 2A state dual-team championship match at N.C. State’s Isenhour Tennis Center in Raleigh.

Also, two of Lake Norman Charter’s players – sisters Hannah and Olivia Archer – teamed to win the 2A state doubles title the week before the dual-team title.

Again, that’s in the past: The Knights aren’t even thinking about this year’s playoffs.

“We really don’t want to focus on that,” said Hannah Archer, one of two returning senior starters (Tiffany Onia is the other). “It’s more than we want to focus on one match at a time.

“We’re not really thinking of states right now, we’re thinking short term… and how we can develop the team with all the freshmen coming in.”

Also returning from last year’s state championship team are junior Lauren Loveless, the most valuable player in last year’s 2A dual-team title match; and sophomores Olivia Archer, Lauren Bush and Charanya Uppalapati.

That’s one of the Knights’ strengths this season: the 16 players, four more than last year, set up spirited competition for playing time.

“Everybody’s challenging each other because everybody wants a spot,” Gomez said. “It pushes everybody just to work that much harder.

“I tell them we’ve got to be ready for every match because we don’t know who we’re facing. You don’t know who people add, but we’re going to be ready for them.”

“That’s what makes our team so good,” Said Onia. “It’s because we are all able to challenge each other. There’s a lot of competition, but it’s a healthy competition. We’re all pushing each other to get better, but we’re all supportive of each other as well.”

Lake Norman Charter players first want to get through the regular season, which began Aug. 20 against 3A dual-team semifinalist Weddington.

The Knights also are going for their third consecutive Big South 2A/3A title and fifth straight conference title overall. LNC won back-to-back Southern Piedmont 1A titles in 2011-12, then moved up in class in 2013.

“Because we have everybody returning, people are already expecting us to be good,” Gomez said. “That does put a little pressure on us, but everybody’s going to be coming for us. We’re expecting our opponents to come at us hard, but we’re going to come hard, too.”

Bill Kiser is a freelance writer: bkisercltobs@gmail.com.

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