Eastern Alamance’s women’s tennis team is off to a 6-0 start this season coming off a dominant 9-0 victory last week in Mebane over Mid-State Conference rival Rockingham. The Eagles got straight set 6-0, 6-0 victories from No. 1 singles player Christin Dunn and No. 2 singles player Emily Walsh, while No. 3 singles player Rocio Rosa prevailed 6-1, 6-0, and No. 4 Olivia Harris won by a count of 6-0, 6-2.
No. 5 singles player Hannah Hawks continued her solid play with a 6-1, 6-1 victory, while No. 6 singles player Sarah Delario lost a tough 7-9 tiebreaker in the first set after playing Rockingham’s Alice Holmes to a 6-6 tie. Delario was beating Holmes 4-1 in the second set when she claimed the victory by walkoff.
In double’s play, Dunn and Walsh crushed Taylor Roberston and Grace Barrios, Rockingham’s No. 1 and No. 3 singles players, by an 8-0 score. Rosa and Hawks, playing No. 2 doubles for EAHS, wiped out Hannah Wood and Hannah Anne Williamson, Rockingham’s No. 2 and No. 5 singles players, by an 8-3 score, and Harris and Allen took down Rylee Martin and Katelyn McKinney, 8-2.
For Eastern head coach Tom Booth, it was nice to see the Eagles avoid a letdown coming off what was one of the biggest victories in the program’s history the week before over Northern Guilford.
“It was 5-4 last year (against Northern Guilford). It was just a hair’s breath away from doing it last year. The girls were a little bit disappointed,” Booth said in a recent interview. “But when they were freshmen, this is the one they were shooting for. So they stepped up.”
“It felt really good to beat Northern Guilford. For a lot of us seniors on the team, we’ve been waiting for this moment. To go and be able to beat them, it felt really rewarding after all the work we’ve put into it,” Harris added.
“My worry is there will be a sense of complacency,” Booth continued. “So I try to stay on them, to keep them improving. I’m the guy that you can’t please. But that’s my job. No matter how good they get, I still try to find something they can improve upon to keep them grounded, even as well as they’re doing right now.”
EAHS’s triumph over the Nighthawks sets the Eagles up to win the conference title if they can beat Western Alamance September 25, and then follow that up with a win over McMichael October 2 in the regular season finale.
“My first year, we were fifth (in the conference). The next year we took third. Then two second place finishes. This year, right now, so far, we’re on the top,” Booth continued. “But we’ve got a long way to go. We’ve still got to beat undefeated Western, and there’s Williams and Southern, so you’ve got the Alamance County championship to think about as well. So we’re not counting our chickens before they hatch.”
For their part, the Eagles players are keeping focused on the moment at hand, not getting ahead of themselves as they chase the Mid-State Conference’s top seed, and a chance to make a run in the upcoming NCHSAA state playoffs. Eastern’s lineup is filled with veterans such as Dunn, Walsh, and Harris - seniors who have fought their way up over the last four seasons through hard work and determination.
“When they were freshmen, at our banquet, we talked about looking at this point in time. And I’ve reminded them of that every year. Last year, we said let’s go for it. We did, and fell a little bit short. This year, they’re doing it,” Booth said. “And you saw the work they’re doing. They’re putting in work.”
“I can see a tremendous growth from my freshman year to my senior year,” added Dunn. “It took a lot of hard work, in season and in the offseason. A lot of that credit is due to coming out here during the weekends and practicing, and also the Mebane tennis program, the middle school program that a lot of us came from. It just took a lot of hard work and dedication to come to where we are today.”
Booth praised this group of seniors not only for their hard work - coming out in off hours to practice - but in the way they’ve embraced their younger teammates and helped them along with their respective games.
“It’s good in the way that I have multiple coaches on the court. But I have to deal with a little senioritis at the same time. But these are a great group of girls,” Booth said. “I have split them up and put a senior person with a freshman or a sophomore, and said, ‘Work on their top spin, or work on this.’ And many times, they’ll come get the ball machine from me on the weekend, and they’ll come out here on their own, without me being here working. It’s always a senior player with an underclassman. It’s nice to have extra coaches out here that really know what they’re talking about.”
Looking ahead, the Eagles travel to Williams on Tuesday for a local matchup with Williams. The Bulldogs are 6-0 under head coach John Osborne - the same record as Eastern. Also like the Eagles, Williams appears to be headed to the state playoffs as the likely champion of the Mid-Piedmont 3A Conference. The Bulldogs got off to a 5-0 start in league play this season.
On September 23, the Eagles will travel to Swepsonville to face Southern Alamance, who got off to a 5-3 start this season. Southern’s only loss in conference play thus far was to Williams. After that, the Eagles travel to Elon to play Western Alamance, who got off to a 2-0 start, before hosting McMichael in Mebane in the last home match. McMichael got off to an 0-3 start.
“Williams and Southern, they’re in-county rivals. So it’s nice to beat our neighbors if we can,” Booth said. “Williams got us last year the first day of school. We came out dead as a doorknob. They’re always great competition. They have great feeder systems. If you can beat Williams, that’s always a great accomplishment, year in and year out. So that’s one we’re really looking at right now.”
“We don’t want to look past these teams, because some of them are still undefeated,” added Walsh. “So we’re still working hard. Even harder than we did for Northern, just so we can stay ready for these teams.”