Lake Norman & Mooresville

Top tennis player leaves mark on Christ the King program

One of the best high school girls’ tennis players in North Carolina couldn’t participate in October’s N.C. High School Athletic Association individual or dual-team championships.

Christ the King High School senior Gaby Hurt is ranked as the No. 10 senior in the state by the Tennis Recruiting Network. She is No. 13 the October USTA 18 girls’ state singles rankings.

This high school season, she didn’t lose a singles’ match, beating defending 1A singles champion Courtney Mudge of Community School of Davidson and Charlotte Catholic’s Rachel Marthinsen, the No. 12 sophomore in the state.

Hurt, 17, and doubles partner Allison Simmel beat Charlotte Catholic’s doubles team of McKinley Riley and Catie Nelson, which made it to the quarterfinals of this year’s 4A tournament.

But Christ the King, a Catholic high school in Huntersville that opened in 2011, didn’t even have a girl’s tennis team until this fall, when Hurt recruited enough players to form one.

And it isn’t yet eligible to compete in NCHSAA tournaments, so Hurt couldn’t compete for a state title.

“I would say that that’s probably been the toughest pill to swallow,” said Christ the King tennis coach Lauren Bauer. “She deserves so much to be out there, and she worked so hard to play and beat girls that were successful in the tournament. …

“It was hard to watch her feel disappointed. She is so deserving and so humble.”

But even without any state titles to her credit, Hurt has made a lasting impact on the Christ the King tennis program.

Coming into high school, Hurt, who lives in Davidson, had a choice to go to Christ the King or Charlotte Catholic, which has a proud tennis tradition with 10 dual-team state championships. There’s no geographical dividing line between the two schools.

“I knew all the girls on the team, I practice with them, so I knew the team was good,” Hurt said about Catholic. “I knew I could have a good position on the team all four years, and then I was just like, ‘Why not make my own team? Why go somewhere where they already set something up? Why don’t I go make history and set something up myself?’”

Christ the King didn’t field a girls’ team during Hurt’s first three years of high school. The school had a co-ed team that played other boys’ teams in the spring season. Hurt played in the No. 1 spot all three years and only lost two matches to boys in that span.

“It was really funny going to the matches and the boys seeing the girls on our team,” said Hurt, who has regularly practiced against boys the past four years while training with former professional tennis player John Sadri in south Charlotte.

“And then, when they called out the roster and I was No. 1, I got a few smirks. But then we went out there and I guess I showed them differently.”

Sadri said Hurt “plays more like a male,” with a big serve and a strong overhead and volley game.

Hurt, who stands 5-foot-7, has only measured the speed of her serve once, two years ago at a little booth at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston.

“I was in a skirt and sandals and it was 97 miles per hour,” she said. “I was not expecting that.”

Sadri called Hurt a fundamentally sound player and a good teammate.

“Her desire is what impressed me the most,” he said. “She wanted to spend the extra hour, whether it was on her serve, or on her ground strokes, or some fundamental, she always wanted to practice. She was out here in the snow, she was out here in the rain and she was out there at night under the bad lights, and she worked as hard as she could. …

“She’s a late bloomer. I think we’ve got bigger expectations and bigger goals for her ahead. Sky’s the limit for her if she would realize that.”

Hurt wanted to play on a girls’ team at Christ the King during her senior year. She had three other players but needed two more to fill out a six-player roster. This summer, she sent an email to the freshman class and got three more players to sign up.

“It was her dream to start a girls’ team at Christ the King,” Bauer said. “She did what she had to do to make that happen. …

“For the last for years, tennis at CTK has been Gaby Hurt. She’s done a phenomenal job representing our school and working hard to build a tennis program there, and a successful one at that.”

Hurt carries a 4.4 GPA and is a sports reporter for the school’s Crusader News broadcasts. She’s interested in studying broadcast journalism in college. She recently signed to play at Western Carolina next year.

Years after she graduates with Christ the King’s first senior class, Hurt wants to come back and see a stronger tennis program, and maybe even some tennis courts at the school’s campus.

“It’s kind of cool to think when I come back here and there’s a tennis team winning all these matches and hopefully winning states one day in the future, I can say I started that,” Hurt said.