Womens Varsity Tennis
|Southwest Guilford High School||7|
|Southeast Guilford High School||2|
Sept 2, 2021
The rain pushed the play of the Cowgirls off for a night, but the consolation gift was a day and evening of cooler temperatures and a light breeze.
Tonight’s match was bittersweet. Coming off a great win over the Nighthawks of Northern Guilford, the Cowgirls had a little rest in playing the Lady Falcons of SE. It wasn’t that SE isn’t a good tennis team, in examining their play and rosters, Coach knew the Cowgirls had the strength at +1 or more to handle their conference foes.
+1 refers to line up strength. In comparison to the Lady Falcons, though Coach didn’t expect a sweep, The Cowgirls only need 5 wins for the match victory. Coach simply couldn’t imagine from where at least one loss would come.
We began play at 5:10pm. With the shift of not only the end of high schools throughout the county, the start times of matches, and the oppressive heat of late, this was the earliest we had taken to the courts to start play.
With Grace in the line-up, I knew she would find a way to play well…and long. More on her later.
SE’s coach had said her #1 was good. This was an understatement.
Beginning pre-Covid (PC now has a totally new meaning), there had been a push for not only player rankings, but also for a new type of rankings. USTA had advocated for state level ranking system, beginning in juniors based on age and as adulthood took hold, player ranking based on wins and losses. Though tweaked multiple times over the years, let us just say it was an imperfect system at best, easy to game and hard to verify. Universal tennis came unto the scene. Not to bore the reader in the minutia of the playing algorithm, Coach will simply say this, though not perfect, it put everyone – jrs and adults – on the same scale and in turn, with enough individual (or dubs) play….think market equilibrium concerning supply and demand…eventually a true price emerges in the marketplace. So too with the rankings of the players. True, still imperfect, but apples to apples is a better comparison than apples to other fruit.
Turns out SE’s #1 also practices at GTP with Audrey. Audrey a high school jr, Ms. Harris (SE) a senior., having played extensively through the GTP academy (think online classes with more practice time for those eyeing a more intensive tennis experience in their formative jr years) the past several years. Needing at least one year of public school to qualify for her post high school playing opportunities at the college level, Mr Harris enrolled in her districted high school….Southeast.
Ms. Harris is an 8 according to UTR. If the reader remembers back to last season in the Spring, Maggie Gehrig, eventual 3A state champion that stopped Audrey in the third round of Regionals, was also an 8. Audrey is a quickly developing 5. The size of the disparity should tell you the playing difference, experience, and outcome of court 1.
Though holding her own throughout the match, Audrey’s game wasn’t enough to significantly dent the armor of the Lady Falcon. Her hitting was good, her serves in and deep, but the power, play and poise of Ms. Harris was too much. The angles and claimed on court hitting opportunities demanded more of Audrey than she could cover. This marks the first time Audrey has been beaten in conference play during her high school career.
Though sad overall, do not weep dear reader. One of the greatest disappointments of Coach was her couldn’t find teams in year’s past with Audrey level competition at #1 without getting steamrolled on the lower courts. Coming to 4a is a gift of better competition. Every gift, every opportunity has a price. Audrey is in a good head space even with this slight set-back. This will make her into a better player and challenge her game all the more as we carry on through the rest of this season, the off season, and of course, her senior season. 1-6, 1-6.
Court 1 included, the Cowgirls were hitting well today. SE’s playing style was one more palatable to the tastes of the Cowgirls.
Tran, court 2. Tran did great. Though hitting against a bigger hitter, the lack of playing maturity from the Lady Falcon was as much as an advantage to the Cowgirl as it was a detriment to the Lady Falcon. 3, 4, 5 shots max…as long as Tran could keep the ball in play, she dialed back her power game and pushed for consistency, going deeper and into the corners when she should. This was enough. Tran’s opponent couldn’t think outside of her own game and continued to hit errors as Tran became a wall long enough to claim victory. 6-0, 6-0
Grace, Court 3, nerves still a flutter as her play began, held nicely with Ms. Penn…Kennedy. Kennedy pushed hard…a bigger hitter, more active in her footwork – understanding Grace is no slouch on this front – Kennedy seemed to have a better court presence, but Grace held on.
On serve through the first 6 games of the first, Grace faltered on serve allowing the Lady Falcon to go up 3-5. Worried, but not putting on sackcloth and sprinkling ashes on his head, Coach wandered down the line to check on the action from the other courts.
Lauren, Court 4, strong in spin, weaker in consistency was given one charge….slow it down and get her shots in. Though play was slow through longer rallies, Lauren’s forehand down the middle and though slower but more consistent serve hit their marks. The Lady Falcon was no slouch, but Lauren had an evidence advantage. Much to Lauren’s credit, she didn’t try to rush her match, but allowed the play to develop, hitting her shots, and covering the court throughout the rallies. Lauren turns a recent short runoff disappointment into an uptick in play and stats. Well played Lauren. 6-2, 6-2.
What was that? Court 3….clearly Grace came back, winning the 1st set so she doesn’t have to take the second and win the third and draw out the play past 2 hours….right?
3-6, Ms. Penn. Kennedy had the advantage in the first and pushed Grace quite a bit. Sad, but not the end of the world. As the readers clearly remember from write-ups past….Grace’s modus operandi isn’t to come out of the gate perfect….her stories put to document wouldn’t read half as well as longer epic adventures of her play. Let’s look over at Court 5.
Anna, court 5, had a harder time than the rest (not counting Grace) in overcoming her opponent. Trading serves for the first 6 games, the Lady Falcon had a higher ball and pace of play wasn’t as inviting as Anna would have liked it to be. But true to form, Anna fought, grinded a bit, and was able to close out more points than her opponent. 6-3 in the first after breaking her opponent once, the second set, though not any less strenuous, allowed Anna to see the ball in a new light. SE covered the court well v Anna…Anna just had to outplay her girl. 6-2, 6-2, cowgirls.
Kate on court 6. Kate, as the reader is aware, is a quality player. Smiles and unicorns draped with naturally curly red hair. Her opponent didn’t have an immunity to the wiles of a ginger clan member. Though she fought well, and pushed a lot of balls back to Kate, Kate outplayed a bigger hitting rival. Points were long and required Kate to hit her ball, which she eventually did by the 5-7 ball of the point, forcing her opponent to move, which she couldn’t do that well. This was all Kate needed to secure the match. 6-1, 6-0.
Coach and Grace had a meeting of the minds. Though unable to stop the bleeding in the first set, Grace came out swinging in the 2nd. A more confident hitting Cowgirl, playing a point to elongate it and to win it rather than softy pushes in an attempt not to lose the set. Play your game Grace…and draw your opponent into making less comfy shot increasing the chance of hitting an error. And that quickly, the pendulum swung back to the Cowgirls on this court.
Coach had promised the ladies if they won the match in singles play, he would move a team out, combo a different team at 1, experiment with the partners at two, and offer a chance to pay dubs to two other Cowgirls at 3. It isn’t that coach doesn’t want to play the rest of the Cowgirls in a Varsity match, rather, having never experienced the new conference players and now, with so many more teams, there simply isn’t opportunity until the a pecking order is established through a season of dual team matches.
Stopping Kennedy at only two games, Grace forced her different paced play on the Lady Falcon. Over hitting, longer rallies…this wasn’t Kennedy’s style. Error, error, more errors on the part of the Lady Falcon…..6-2 Grace claims the second set…into a third set 10 point tiebreaker we go.
2-3a break by Kennedy
4-3 break by Grace
7-5 up by two…the biggest advantage of the tiebreaker
8-7 Two more points, Come On!
and with Kennedy serving, a double fault at a crucial time gifting the final point and more importantly, relinquishing her claim on the match as Grace battles through another three set match. 3-6, 6-2, 10-8.
If you are keeping a set of stats at home, Grace walks off the courts ~ 1 hr 50 minutes. Though shy of her two record attempts in as many games, Grace resets her timer for the next singles match-up.
Cowgirls take the match 5-1 after singles.
Dubs to follow, and as promised, coach sat Audrey and Tran, combo’ed Grace and Anna for #1, Swapped out Lauren for Kate @#2, and introduced Betsy Chen and Bella Johnson into the varsity line up for dubs.
The Lady Falcons kept with a traditional, 1/2 , 3/4 , 5/6 dubs line-up. Though an opportunity was given for these aforementioned Cowgirls, they would need to up their games if they wanted continue the victories of their singles brethren. Remember what Coach was saying about SWG was a +1 to SEG??? Yep. This is where is would be tested.
The one direction Coach game all three dubs teams was, hit to the weaker player. Do not try to hit around into an open court, drive the ball to the weaker player every time. Though linear in nature, SEG’s stair stepped significantly in their dubs teams.
Do you remember Ms Harris, SEG #1, well, she was still in the line up for dubs. Asking two newbies to take on their #1 team was a tall ask, but Grace and Anna accepted it willingly. As witnessed before v NWG back when Elizabeth (2nd day 4a State Qualifier) two years back, Ms. Harris leased out 10, maybe 15% percent out to her partner and she took care of the rest. She was a beast at the net, baseline, and tracking down balls. Grace and Anna fought well, kept the ball in play, and continually pushed their shots to fertile grounds, but the combined power (mainly Ms Harris) was too much. 2-8 to the Lady Falcons. Again, Audrey, Anna, and Grace played very well considering their opponents tonight. Playwise, these Cowgirls left nothing on the courts to lament upon. Their efforts were simply not rewarded facing the level of play they did.
First time pairing of Kate and Rachael. Rachael, Lauren’s partner since the beginning of the season, showed great promise and delivered it back at the net and in her court movement. Facing new foes, Kate had earned this opportunity to play in dubs.
It was tight. Playing ability and style. Rachael, outside of the top 6, and Kate, #6, were facing off with SEG #3 and #4. Kennedy, the bigger hitter that Grace took to three sets, and a competent hitting #4 that Lauren claimed victory over, on paper, the Cowgirls didn’t really match well strength wise. But dubs is a different beast. Two good singles can be a detriment to their combined playing level. In turn, it can happen where lower level players, hitting and moving well, can be great than the sum of their parts. And this was the case of the lower two dubs courts.
Kate and Rachael played well. No, their serves were not spectacular, nor was their shots blistering, but they meshed well. Anticipating the ball at the net and in the back court, the Cowgirls held their own throughout the match. Starting off down one, the Cowgirls never let the Falcons go up by more than two. A break each was traded, not, count it two breaks a piece, the final one to tie the match back at 7. Confused slightly as to if the match to 8 or if you had to win by two, once clarified, the Cowgirls held serve to go up 8-7. Once more break to claim an unlikely victory….nope. tied at 8 all…a Tiebreaker, but this time in doubles. Dubs tiebreakers are the same as single’s tiebreakers but twice as many people and therefore more moving parts.
Almost perfect on serve:
3-3 of course.
and with a spirited point (like ALL of the other points), the Lady Falcons hit one into the net as the Cowgirls take court 2 in a great match. 9-8 (7-5)
Against two quality players, Betsy and Bella took to the courts. Again, if you looked on paper, Cowgirls were the underdogs. The first three games were shaky for the Cowgirls. They had all but forgotten the helpful hint of “hit to the weaker player (#6)” as given by Coach prior to the start of the match. Down by a break early in the race to 8, the Cowgirls secured their footing once Coach made them aware of their one instruction. More determined players found their stride as Betsy kept the Lady Falcons back with well placed higher and deeper shots which Bella’s confidence tripled if not quadrupled as her shots found their marks. Making up for lost opportunity, the Cowgirls simply outplayed their opponents much like Kate and Rachael did on court 2. Again, the shots weren’t blazing a path over the net. The Cowgirls simply played good tennis. With a bit of surprise by everyone watching, the Cowgirls found themselves up by one, 7-6. With the Lady Falcons floundering and trying not to lose, the simple shots delivered by the Cowgirls earned their just reward as a steady handed Betsy and emerging basketball star slumming on the tennis courts in the off season Bella defeat a small giant of a dubs team. 8-6.
These two unlikely wins by untested individuals thrilled Coach’s heart to no end.
Well played Cowgirls!
Reagan Harris (SE) over Audrey Serb (SW) 6-1, 6-1
Tran Nguyen (sw) over Josephine Ebanhose (SE) 6-0, 6-0
Grace parsons(SW) over Kennedy Penn (SE) 3-6, 6-2, 10-8
Lauren Harris (SW) over Allie Hardie (SE) 6-2, 6-2
Anna McGinnis (SW) over Abby Kirkman (SE) 6-3, 6-2
Kate Cherry (SW) over Abby Martin (SE) 6-1, 6-0
Harris/Ebanhose (SE) over Parsons/McGinnis (SW) 8-2
Cherry/Rachael Dee (SW) over Penn/Hardie (SE) 9-8(7-5)
Betsy Chen/Bella Johnson (Saw) over Kirkman/Martin (SE) 8-6
Cowgirls take another conference win. Score: 7-2
Cowgirls move to 3-1 in conference play and 4-2 overall.
Lady falcons still are searching for their first win of the season.
Cowgirls play host to Grimsley on Tuesday to continue conf action.