Pat Netters Send Six to Regionals, Decker Claims SEC Singles Crown
Caroline Decker led a group of six Pinecrest tennis players that qualified for regional competition by winning the 4-A Southeastern Conference singles championship at the Pinehurst Resort Wednesday afternoon.
The junior combined to win the doubles titles with injured teammate Chrissy Nurnberg the previous two years. She defeated Munroe Buie of Scotland County 6-2, 6-1 in the singles final. The Patriots and Scots finished tied for the top in regular season dual matches with records of 9-1.
“I love Chrissy and I love singles and doubles,” Decker said afterward. “Every year we try to get all our players out and we work hard every practice, every day. We have a great group of girls out here. Four of our teams made the semi-finals and that’s just great to see.”
All of the conference tournament semi-finalists qualify for the 4-A East Regional competition to be held at Terry Sanford High School on October 19 and 20. The Patriots are also expecting to host a first round match against an opponent still to be determined in state dual team playoffs, beginning on Tuesday.
The Patriot qualifiers are all underclassmen. The sophomore duo of Brittany Jenkins and Piper Davis were runner-ups after falling to the Scots’ Charlotte Laurent and Leslie Floyd 6-2, 6-0 in the doubles final. Juniors Josie Lee and Kaitlyn Newman lost their first match of the season in a doubles semi-final match. Then they bounced back to grab third place with a 6-2, 6-1 win over the doubles pair from Richmond Senior.
In the longest of the day’s final matches, Kali Strickland of Purnell Swett defeated Patriot freshman Paige Sumner 6-1, 2-6 and 6-1 for third place in singles.
“She’s got a really good game,” Patriot coach Gail Deese said of the left-handed swinging Sumner. “She just needs to be confident in it.”
Nurnberg, who went to the regional twice in doubles with Decker, and also qualified for the state tournament a year ago, first injured the ankle last fall. It finally gave out in last week’s match at Hoke County. She hopes to play tennis in college.
“It’s a huge disappointment,” she said of the lingering injury. “I thought I would be ready in time, but the ankle got gradually worse over the summer. The doctor told me I’m out until late December or early January to get a full recovery.”
The 5-4 loss to Scotland in the second meeting between the teams of the season was the Patriots’ first to the squad from Laurinburg since 2007. The records for the No. 1 through No. 6 singles players during the season were Decker, 12-2, Nurnberg, 10-1, Karen Smith, 7-7, Davis, 10-3, Sumner, 10-4 and Jenkins 12-2.
According to Deese, Decker and Nurnberg, the team captain, would have vied for the three-peat in doubles had it not been for the ankle injury. Decker receives instruction from Matt Downing at the Pinehurst Tennis Club.
“Caroline’s been a little nervous about it, but we’ve talked her through it,” Deese said. “But she loves singles. It’s bad for Chrissy being a senior and not being able to finish it out.”
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