Cape Fear Christian Academy's girls tennis team prevailed to take the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament championship Wednesday, keeping its unbeaten streak in league play alive.
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ERWIN — As the sun dipped below the horizon at Triton’s tennis courts Wednesday, an intense tournament championship battle was just heating up.
The Cape Fear Christian Academy girls tennis team, undefeated in Sandhills Athletic Conference play this fall, faced its stiffest test as visiting Fayetteville Christian Academy tied the match following singles competition.
But the Lady Eagles swept all three doubles matches, using a 6-3 decision to clinch its second SAC tournament title in three years.
“We had high expectations and we met our goal, at least, of winning the conference championship,” CFCA coach Page Jackson said as flood lights hit the court following a three-hour marathon that saw multiple tiebreaks.
“It was a relief. Closer than what I wanted, but it was a good relief.
We could’ve easily folded ... that was obviously the closest conference match we had all year.”
CFCA got singles wins from Ella John Dupree, Karson Hamilton and Savannah Autry.
Dupree defeated Isabela Harris in straight sets during the No. 1 seed match, and Hamilton did the same over Kylie Webber at the No. 4 slot.
Autry easily won the first set against Lela Lesniak, then used a 10-4 decision in the tiebreaker to take the No. 5 seed match.
But the visitors got a win from Alyia Trainor, then saw Lauren Ruppe and Katerina Ruppe win the day’s most competitive duels.
In the No. 2 match, Lady Eagles junior Nina Sauer took the first set against Lauren Ruppe, 6-1, but dropped the second and eventually succumbed to a 5-10 loss in the tiebreaker.
Aubrey Jackson won 7-5 in the first set over Katerina Ruppe, but fell 4-6 and 4-10 in the second and tiebreaker, respectively.
With the sides tied at three wins apiece, Jackson’s group had the upper hand heading into doubles, boasting a unit with athletes that have for the most part played together the past four years.
“It definitely helps. The more time you play together, the better the team becomes,” Jackson said of his team’s chemistry.
Dupree and Sauer hooked up to defeat Harris and Lauren Ruppe, 8-4, in the No. 1 doubles match. Jackson and Hamilton teamed up to top Katerina Ruppe and Webber, 8-3, while Autry and Lily Kate Dupree downed Lesniak and Faith Myers, 8-4 in the No. 3 slot.
“It’s so important that everybody comes out and plays well every time we come out, especially during conference,” Ella John Dupree said.
“And we all went out and did what we were supposed to do, and we all came together as a team to take the win.”
The Lady Eagles posted an 8-4 overall record, including a perfect 4-0 league mark, and made the North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association (NCISAA) 1A state championships.
All of its members are expected to return next season, giving Jackson an even higher bar to set.
“With everybody coming back, there’s no reason why we won’t compete for a state championship,” he said.
Donnell Coley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910 230-2040.