Nine Viking Girls Advance to Regionals in Tennis
Union Pines dominated the 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference (CFVC) tennis tournament, with the Viking girls’ claiming first- and second-place finishes in both the singles and doubles championships Thursday in Sanford.
Out of the 12 possible 3-A Mid-East regional qualifying spots, nine were filled by Vikings, including all the finalists, along with Madi Kramer (singles) and the doubles pairing of Celine Bullock and Tabitha Hamilton.
“Nine regional qualifiers places Union Pines in new territory,” said Viking coach John Frye. “We had three doubles teams in 2010 with two singles entries. At the tournament, one of our fans remarked that he was having concerns with all the finalists being Union Pines players and it was difficult to decide which were more deserving.
“And I agree. This team has meshed during the course of the season and their practices have been intense. All are pointed toward raising skills levels.”
Junior Melissa Tally defeated Viking senior Brittany Jones in the tournament final to capture her second consecutive league singles crown.
“It has been a great year so far,” Tally said as she reflected back on the season after the match. “I feel like I’m playing the best I ever have and I feel that playing in the conference tournament finals and playing Pinecrest have really prepared me for the upcoming postseason.
“Both championships have been special to me, but I would have to say that this year’s was more special. I felt really prepared going into the tournament, and winning it gave me a lot of motivation that I will take with me into my upcoming regional matches.”
The victory marked Tally’s 99th in her Union Pines career. She was also named the 2011 CFVC Player of the Year.
“Being the CFVC player of the year for the second time is truly an honor along with being conference champion,” Tally said. “Both of these honors are proof to me that my hard work is paying off and motivate me to work even harder.
“It has certainly taken a lot of work to make this tennis season’s successes a reality; all of coach Frye’s camps and workouts in the summer, taking lessons with Keith Criscoe and team practices every day after school have all made a huge impact on my tennis game and this tennis season.”
Frye described Thursday’s championship match in singles as a “close contest.”
“The singles championship match ended at 10-3,” Frye said, “but the score does not indicate its true nature. The hitting was heavy and the shots were well placed from both sides.
“Melissa was outstanding both in the tournament and in the regular season. She completed the conference regular season without losing any games in singles. We have not had a player of this status since Neena Wanko.”
Wanko won a 3-A NCHSAA state championship in singles for Union Pines in 2009. Now a sophomore scholarship tennis player at ECU, Wanko finished with the highest winning percentage in the program’s history, amassing an overall record of 109-4 in three seasons as a Vike. Along with being the first player to claim a state singles title, Wanko also set a Union Pines girls’ record with six singles titles, including three Cape Fear Valley championships and two regional 3-A crowns.
“Multiple doubles championships are attainable when two quality performers are aligned,” said Frye. “But in singles, winning the championship more than once takes a special player — and Melissa is that. She has both the game and the mind set of a winner.”
Thursday’s doubles title match was also an all-Vike bill, as Union Pines’ Virgina Priest and Elena D’Argenio topped teammates Laura Cameron and Maddie Walden to win the CFVC doubles crown.
“All of our girls performed at a higher level in doubles, said Frye. “The title match was a contest with long rallies, effective serves and sharp volleys. The championship for Virginia Priest and Elena D’Argenio is one these girls have earned and is popular with our fans.
“Virginia is a senior and going out with a title is a fitting reward — and Elena is a player whose offseason work ethic has been rewarded.”
With the year’s CFVC play completed, the Vikings now shift their focus to the postseason, which in tennis is both dual-team playoffs and individual singles and doubles competition at the regional and ultimately state championships.
Tally was a state qualifier as a sophomore last season in singles play.
Union Pines begins the 3-A dual team tennis state playoffs Tuesday, at the John S. Frye Tennis Complex in Cameron. The Vikings enter the postseason as the first seed from the CFVC, after claiming their seventh straight league title. They entertain Ledford — the second-seeded team out of the Mid-Piedmont Conference — at 4:30 p.m.
“We had four outstanding matches this season,” said Frye. “Collecting wins over Asheboro, Scotland County, Jordan-Matthews and Pinecrest have elevated both the girls’ skills and confidence, so we’re excited about the first round of duals and happy to be playing a home match against a quality Ledford team.”
Last year, Union Pines won two dual-team matches before losing to eventual 2010 state runner-up Cardinal Gibbons in the regional semifinals.
Western Harnett’s Hannah Bergman, and Southern Lee’s duo of Dezym Rodriguez-Ana Mitchell were the other three regional qualifiers from the 3-A CFVC tournament.
Semifinals: Melissa Tally (UP) defeated Hannah Bergman (WH), 10-1; Brittany Jones (UP) def. Madi Kramer (UP), 10-7. Finals: Tally def Jones 10-3.
Semifinals: Virginia Priest-Elena D’Argenio (UP) def. Celine Bullock-Tabitha Hamilton (UP), 10-1; Laura Cameron-Maddie Walden (UP) def. Dezym Rodriguez-Ana Mitchell (SL), 10-1; Finals: Priest-D’Argenio def. Cameron-Walden, 10-4.
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