GREENSBORO — The Lady Bears moved a step closer to defending their state tennis title with a sweep of Chatham Central Tuesday.
Because of the strong winds and occasional rain from Hurricane Sandy, Monday’s regional semifinal was moved to Tuesday and to a new location. Rather than home-court advantage, Mount Airy played at the Piedmont Indoor Tennis Center off Wendover Avenue in Greensboro.
Coach Scott Kniskern said he was proud of the girls for dealing with a lot of issues (some not related to tennis) and putting up a 6-0 shutout in singles to clinch the match without needing doubles play.
They had the match postponed, then tried to practice some in the elements Monday afternoon, then a 121-mile roundtrip bus ride.
The facility was unique as well. Some of the Chatham players said the courts felt different being indoors and was messing with their depth perception on ground strokes.
The surface was slightly softer than the outdoor courts at Mount Airy, too, said Kniskern. This slowed down hard shots and allowed soft volleys to die more easily.
The change was different for the parents and coaches, too. Rather than sitting in folding chairs around the chain-link fence, parents were cramming up against each other to see through doors and windows to the courts.
Also, the center didn’t have score cards at the net, so the coaches were busy running between six simultaneous games to keep up with the score.
Still, Kniskern said the center was much nicer than being outside in the gusting winds and chilly temperatures.
The players appeared a little tentative at first, but then settled down and played their matches, the coach said.
The last two to finish were fifth seed Bree Hughes and sixth seed Carley VanHoy.
“Bree and Carley fought through two really tough matches,” he said. “We needed one of those to clinch the match.”
Assistant Coach Rodney Pell said the squad could see Tuesday how important it was for all the girls to play well and not give the opponent a chance to rally in doubles play.
Top seed Jordan Jackson and fourth seed Haley Thomas raced through their matches.
Jackson defeated Cayley Oldham 6-0, 6-1, and Thomas won 6-1, 6-0 over Jessica Cockman.
Second seed Davi Barbour was next to finish at 6-2, 6-1 over Evan Moody. Then third seed Jade Hughes won 6-3, 6-0 over Hannah Batten.
That made the score 4-0 in the first-to-five format.
Bree Hughes fell behind 2-3 at the start, but came back to win four of the next five games for a 6-4 set.
Abby Wilkins came back with a 6-4 set of her own to force a third-set tiebreaker.
In the meantime, VanHoy won her first set 6-2, but Alli Maness battled her to a 6-6 tie and a second-set tiebreaker.
Bree Hughes won her third set 10-5 to clinch the match, then minutes later VanHoy took a 7-3 tiebreaker to keep the team perfect on the day.
Next up is Gray Stone Day (18-0), which defeated Bishop McGuinness 5-1 on Monday.
The Bears already have some familiarity with Gray Stone. Jackson beat that team’s top player in both the regional and state semifinals. Barbour and Thomas lost to Gray Stone’s doubles team in the state final last weekend.
Kniskern said he told his team at the start of the state playoffs that if the girls wanted to come out of the West and defend their state title, they likely would have to go through Gray Stone to get there.
On the eastern side of the brackets, N.C. School of Science and Math (14-3) will host Franklin Academy (13-6) today in the East regional final.
Mount Airy and Gray Stone are scheduled to play at 4 p.m. today, but the threat of rain could push that over to Thursday.
The state final will be played Saturday afternoon in Burlington.
Reach Jeff Linville at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-1920.