Port City Invite marks start to high school tennis season; season preview

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Three tennis teams from across the area will take to the Althea Gibson Tennis Complex over the next two days at Empie Park in Wilmington to open the 2015 fall season at the annual Port City Invitational.

Joining Hoggard, Laney and New Hanover at this year’s event are Pinecrest, Raleigh-Broughton and Bartlett-Yancey. The six programs open round robin play at 4 p.m. Friday. Second and third round matches will be played at 9 a.m. and approximately 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Laney seniors Erin Nesselroade, left and Suzie Schoolfield. Photo by Joe Catenacci
Laney seniors Erin Nesselroade, left and Suzie Schoolfield. Photo by Joe Catenacci

Laney High School

Like many of the other teams inside conference, Laney is confident it has the right players in place to make a run at the division title.

Coming off a 12-4 season and 10-3 record in league play, Beau Summersill is back at the helm in Buctown and believes senior leadership and a talented group of underclassmen will go a long way as the year progresses.

“We have a great group of seniors led by Suzie Schoolfield, Erin Nesselroade, Anna Porcelli, and Sydney Young,” said Summersill. “They are looking to finish their four years at Laney as conference champions. These seniors along with the supporting cast from sophomore Jessica Tucker and junior Kendall Hanks make up a strong high school tennis team with great depth and ability.”

Hoggard High School

Entering his sixth season as head coach of the girls tennis program, Michael Bowen hopes to build off a 12-5 overall record last year and impressive 10-2 mark in conference. Bowen stands 51-21 all-time as leader of the Vikings and brings back four letter winners, including Melanie Post, who is looking to play next season at the college level.

Melanie Post. Photo courtesy Rodney Williams
Melanie Post. Photo courtesy Rodney Williams

“Our top two positions are both tournament players as Melanie and Kara Ferner advanced to the second round of states in doubles last year, losing in a third set,” said Bowen.

Post is a four-year starter and went 9-3 in singles last season, with 35 career victories as an individual. Ferner was a first-team all-conference performer in 2014 and went 15-0 as a sophomore in singles play.

Claudia Opper will serve as the number three player in the Hoggard lineup as a third-team all-conference recipient, while Hannah Marable, Lauren Traflet and Lindsay Diab round out the rotation.

“Hannah is probably the hardest worker on the team and the most improved since last year,” Bowen added. “Juniors Lauren Traflet and Lindsay Diab have been on the team the past two years, but haven’t been regular starters. Traflet went 7-4 in singles last season. Freshman Anna Phelps is also battling for a spot in the singles lineup.”

Topsail High School

With five returners from one year ago, Troy McGee is excited about Topsail’s chances against the split 3A/4A Mideastern Conference opponents. McGee is in his second full season coaching the girls in Hampstead, with four seniors expected to make an impact.

Left-to-right back row:   Adriana Colon, Caroline Harris, Carmen Jordan, Stephanie Athenas, Sara Major, Chely Pritt; Left-to-right front row: Kinsley Beverage, Xueyang Li, Kasey Pfaff. Photo courtesy- Matt Harris
Left-to-right back row: Adriana Colon, Caroline Harris, Carmen Jordan, Stephanie Athenas, Sara Major, Chely Pritt; Left-to-right front row: Kinsley Beverage, Xueyang Li, Kasey Pfaff. Photo courtesy- Matt Harris

“We have a great group coming back this season and I think our team strengths go to perseverance and determination,” said McGee. “I think we are relatively inexperienced in match play competition, but have a chance at competing for a league title.”

While the Pirates are loaded with experience on the court this season, it all starts with a pair of rising sophomores in the top two spots in Cameron Jordan and Caroline Harris. Jordan played at No. 1 singles as a freshman and earned a spot in the individual state playoffs. Harris was named Team MVP and helped guide her tandem to a conference title in doubles action last year.

Stephanie Athenas will likely play No. 3 singles in her final campaign at Topsail, while Xueyang Li and Sara Major round out the starting lineup for the Pirates.

New Hanover High School 

After dominating the local circuit in 2014, New Hanover will have a completely different look this season under new Head Coach Jeana Powell. She served as an assistant last year and continues to work on developing her players after losing two of the top competitors for the Wildcats.
“I love working with the girls and trying to implement some of what my high school coach taught me,” said Powell. “I played for Coach Andy Fowler in Raleigh over 25 years ago and ironically, play against each other in the first match this afternoon at the Port City Invitational.”
Three new freshmen will join 13 other returning players from one year ago, including talented underclassman Kate Thompson.

 

Ashley High School

Coach Gerry Dempsey will once again lead the Screaming Eagles this fall as Ashley brings back just one returning player out of the top six. Julia Koff did compete on first court last year and made second team all-conference.

“With Julia at the top of the lineup, we’ll be rebuilding this year with sophomores and juniors,” said Dempsey.  “With a hard working group of players should produce some surprises by season end.”

Inquiries into the West Brunswick, North Brunswick and South Brunswick girls tennis programs went answered.