Viking Girls Dominate League Tennis
The number nine has been the number for the Union Pines girls' tennis team all season.
Breaking out of the gate like a horse on fire, the Vikings have rolled to a 9-0 mark this season. In doing so, they have also defeated every opponent they have faced 9-0. The latest victim came Monday in the form of Overhills High School.
"We really have not played a strong team," said John Frye, Union Pines' veteran coach. "We haven't played any teams like the teams we'll meet in the playoffs."
And the Vikings, ranked fifth in the state 3-A coaches poll, are a sure bet to make the playoffs.
"We've been bobbling between third and fifth (in the poll)," Frye said. "It's nice to be recognized."
Helping the Vikings reach that lofty ranking is a combination of youth and experience. The top-two singles players for the Vikings are a case in point. Neena Wanko, the team's No. 1, is a freshman that is ranked by the USTA on the state level and sectional level. Katie Kelly, the team's No. 2, is a senior who has forged a solid career at the school. Frye points out that both of them work with pros and others outside of the Viking program. He also notes that the two give him a "strong top two."
"Neena is a young woman who has been grooming her tennis skills for a long time," Frye said. "She is hitting with people across the state.
"Katie has also been working with people outside of our program, and she is pounding the ball."
The mixture of youth/experience continues through the Vikings six-player singles ladder.
There are two other seniors that play pivotal roles in the Vikings' fortune. Natasha Whetzel mans the No. 3 slot, and is a consistent player, Frye said, while Kendra Black is No. 6 on the ladder.
"She hadn't played much when she came to our program," Frye said of Black. "She has made herself into a really good player over the last four years."
In between Whetzel and Black are sophomore Lydia Stalls at No. 4 and Maura Lenahan, a junior, at No. 5. Lenahan is the most experienced doubles player on the squad, having teamed with graduated Danica Wanko, Neena's sister, to claim conference doubles titles the last two years.
As for the playoffs, Frye said his team will play in the Eastern bracket.
With the quality his team has displayed from top to bottom, Frye is looking forward to the start of the state dual team playoffs.
"We can hit it with the teams in the East," he said. "If we peak at the right time, then somebody is going to have play pretty well to beat us."
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