Courtney Mudge has played in a lot of big tennis matches. She started playing the sport at age 5, began competing in junior tournaments at 8 and was No. 1 in the state in the United States Tennis Association rankings by the time she was 10 years old.
But for Mudge, one of the most significant matches to date came last year on Oct. 26 in Cary, when the then Community School of Davidson junior played her Spartan teammate, then freshman Marisa Deininger, with a 1A state championship on the line.
With an 8 a.m. start and 29 degree temperatures in the shade for most of the match, Mudge outlasted Deininger 7-6, 7-6, taking the two tie-breakers 7-3 and 7-2 to win.
Mudge’s state championship victory made her the first CSD student to win a NCHSAA title. It also helped her keep pace with her family.
Courtney’s father, Dave, won a high school state diving championship in his native Virginia. Her older sister, Michelle, now a diver at North Carolina, won a 4A state crown in diving at Hopewell High, and her older brother, Robbie, now the No. 1 player on the N.C. State tennis team, won two 4A state tennis singles titles at R.J. Reynolds.
“It was really cool to be a state champion and get a ring because my whole family, except my mom (Julie) has won one,” Courtney Mudge said. “It’s great to be a part of the club. We like to make fun of my mom for not having won a ring. But we give her a hard time in good fun because tennis is such a big bond for our family. We are always competing with each other on the court.”
Julie, who is director of the Lake Norman Tennis Academy, is in pursuit of a state title in both of her USTA leagues, a 4.5 singles group and 9.0 mixed doubles league.
In the meantime, Courtney, 17, has been hard at work on her game this summer on the USTA junior circuit, where she has some strong finishes, including fourth-place in the Southern qualifier.
Mudge also played in the N.C. Junior Summer State Closed Championships Aug. 6-8 in Cary, one of the biggest junior events of the summer. She made it to the round of 32
All of this has helped Mudge get ready for her final high school season at CSD. She has gone 55-2 overall in her high school career, including 17-1 in singles and 6-0 in doubles last season.
Mudge has a punishing style of play, with many of her family and friends noting she “plays like a boy” after learning most of her game from Robbie.
While Mudge is focused on repeating her sweep of the Southern Piedmont 1A conference, 1A West Regional and 1A state singles’ titles, she also is looking forward to playing with her CSD team.
“I love being part of a team and having friends that you root for and they root for you while you are all competing for the same things,” Mudge said. “I’m excited about this season, especially because it’s my last year at CSD.”
Mudge will be the No. 1 singles player on a talented CSD tennis squad that went 8-2 last year, making it to the second round of the 1A dual-team state playoffs.
Mudge will have a lot of help with Deininger, the 1A state runner-up, senior Brianna Dicristofaro and sophomores Meghan O’Brien and Eliza Robinson in the lineup.
The Spartans will also be led by new head coach Sean O’Brien, who replaces Crystal Hamilton, who built the program.
O’Brien believes his team is a conference and state contender again in 2014.
“Courtney is an incredible leader for this team who works hard on the court, in school and is just a great person,” said O’Brien. “But this whole group is special and I’d put them up against anyone in the state.”
Mudge would love to go out as a state champion, but she doesn’t mind if it’s singles or doubles. She is intrigued by the potential of pairing with Deininger to pursue a state doubles title.
Mudge also has a decision to make about the future of her tennis career.
Mudge has gotten interest from several college coaches, including UNC Wilmington, but is still deciding if she will continue her playing career.
“If I can play tennis at a school that I want to go, I would love to play college tennis,” said Mudge, who has a 4.3 GPA. “But I’m not going to go to a school just because I can play tennis there.”
Even if she doesn’t play in college, she expects tennis will be a part of her life.
“I’ll always love tennis no matter what,” said Mudge. “It’s such a big part of my life and my family. We will always be competing for bragging rights on the court.”