UP's Wanko Defends Regional Title
Monday in Cameron, Union Pines senior Neena Wanko defeated Masey DeMoss in straight sets to earn her second straight 3A Mid-East Regional championship.
"It feels really good to win the regional again," said Wanko after the match. "I am glad I was able to defend my title."
It was her fifth career singles title as a Union Pines Viking. Along with her 2008 regional title, Wanko has won three Cape Fear Valley Conference singles crowns. She was also the runner-up in last year's individual state final.
Wanko defeated McMichael's freshman DeMoss 6-2, 6-3 in the regional championship to capture the title and enter this weekend's individual 3A state championships as a No. 1 seed. DeMoss enters the state finals as No. 2 seed by virtue of her regional runner-up finish.
"When the final match started, I was fighting off some nerves, but I was able to settle down and play better in the second set," said DeMoss. "I just tried my best, but Neena was too good. I hope she does well in the state finals."
In the first set Wanko used her strong serve along with powerful and precise ground strokes, as she had two aces, eight service winners and 15 winners. Masey managed to hold serve twice to take two games in the opening set, more than any other player had tallied against Wanko through the first three rounds of the tournament.
After the match Wanko was impressed with her freshman counterpart's performance and poise.
"Masey has a really good game," Wanko said, "and I think she could win this tournament next year."
Set two saw Wanko open up a 3-1 lead to go up a break. However, Masey then held her serve and broke Wanko back to square the set at 3-all.
From there Wanko answered by breaking Masey's final two service games, sandwiched between a hold of serve. She closed the match with three consecutive winners to take the set 6-3 and win the regional.
On her way to the title, Wanko ran her three-year Union Pines career record to 103-4. This fall she will be attending East Carolina University on a full tennis scholarship.
After defending her title, Wanko admitted she was not in top form during the tournament.
"I might have been at a seven this week on a 1-10 scale," she said. "I have not been playing too much competitive tennis lately -- the type of competitive tennis I am used to anyway, but I am getting there. By this weekend I hope to bring my top-level game into the state finals."
While Wanko felt there was room for improvement in her four-match performance at the Mid-East Regional, her stats in the championship match were impressive. She had 14 service winners, three aces and 27 winners in the two-set final, while holding her serve seven of eight times and breaking DeMoss's serve three times.
In the opening two rounds, Wanko used two shutout victories on Friday to advance to Saturday's regional semifinals, where she notched a 6-1, 6-0 win to advance to the championship match, which was rescheduled for Monday afternoon due to heavy rain.
Wanko, along with the freshman doubles pair of Melissa Tally-Madison Kramer, will compete at the 3A Individual Women's Tennis Championships this Friday and Saturday at the Burlington Tennis Center.
In last year's postseason, Wanko breezed her way all the way through to the state championship match before falling 6-0, 6-2 to Lake Norman senior Kathryn Talbert, who is now a freshman member of the Lady Deacons women's tennis team at Wake Forest University.
As the 2008 state runner-up, Wanko is excited about having another chance to win a state championship.
"It would be nice to win it this year," Wanko said, "and I definitely think I can take it if I perform well. Even still, I just need to go out, play my game, give it my all and we will see what happens."
However, first Wanko and the Viking girls' tennis team have some pressing matters of business to deal with, in the form of a second round 3A dual team tennis playoff match today in Rocky Mount.
Union Pines' opponent in the match will be the Lady Gryphons, who are 16-4 on the year and the top seed from the Big East Conference. Last year, Rocky Mount upset the Lady Vikes by a 6-3 score in the opening round of the 3A dual team playoffs at Union Pines.
Contact F.W. Manning at (910) 639-5481 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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