The West Wilkes girls tennis program has come a long way in the last nine years.
On Thursday evening in Hays, the Blackhawks defeated North Wilkes 9-0 to complete their best season since restarting the program full-time back in the fall of 2010.
West Wilkes finished the regular season at 12-2 (both overall and in Mountain Valley Athletic Conference play). And with last Tuesday’s win against Ashe County, it locked up the league’s 2A seed — automatically earning a bid for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association state dual playoffs.
The postseason begins on Oct. 16, but Head Coach Angie Eddins stated that the Blackhawks will not be able to host a home playoff match due to their courts not having lights. According to the fourth-year head coach, West is working to find an alternate venue that has lights to play the first round match.
“The team is thrilled that all the hard work, dedication and fortitude they have put into this season, and it has earned the Lady Hawks the top 2A seed — I don’t even have any record of this happening,” said Eddins.
Due to unseasonably hot weather recently, Wilkes County athletic events were not allowed to begin until 6 p.m. on Thursday (compared to the usual 4 p.m. starts), so the Blackhawks and Vikings played eight-point pro sets.
But West Wilkes’ Zoey Albert, Paige Phillips and Kendall Stanley all came away with 8-0 wins. Albert bested North’s Rebekah Wilson at No. 1, while Phillips (No. 5 singles) and Stanley (No. 6 singles) defeated Sarah Gambill and Taylor Wood, respectively.
Lizzie Church also notched an 8-0 win at No. 4 singles over Sunny Johnson.
Phillips and Stanley teamed up at No. 2 doubles to win 8-0 over Caelen Mahan and Johnson.
Phillips and Stanley, neither of whom played last season, have emerged as solid contributors in the bottom portion of the lineup. Neither player was in the starting lineup at the start of the regular season, showing the team’s depth, according to Eddins.
“This has been an amazingly great season for West tennis. We have a team with the most comprehensive competitive spirit and athleticism we have ever had as a whole team,” said Eddins. “We have the largest roster (22 players), I have ever had. And with many new players and challenge matches among the team, it took a while to get the lineup just right — we are a very deep team this year.”
Elizabeth Minton and Cassidy Miller, who play singles at No. 2, and No. 3, respectively, also earned wins in singles competition.
Minton earned a hard-fought 8-4 win over Allie Billings while Miller had an 8-1 win against Mahan.
Miller and Church teamed to win at No. 1 doubles while Rylea Church and Harleigh Walsh were victorious in No. 3 doubles with a tightly-contested 9-7 over Gambill and Wood.
“We have a solid team and should be able to go far in playoffs. No record of when West tennis has been to dual team playoffs, so, our program is growing, as you see the number in the roster,” said Eddins. “I am super proud of this team and I could not have done it without the assistant coaches, Keith and Leasa Garrett.”
The Vikings concluded their regular season at 2-12 in league play and 2-13 overall but both teams will take part in the MVAC individual tournament on Wednesday at the Elkin Tennis Complex.
Note: This fall marked the second time in the last five seasons that the Blackhawks have finished with the best MVAC record among the league’s 2A teams. West finished tied with Ashe County with identical 9-5 marks in 2015 but lost a one-game playoff to the Huskies to determine the league’s automatic qualifier for the playoffs.