ELKIN — All eight Mountain Valley Athletic Conference girls tennis programs began conference tournament play on Wednesday afternoon with aspirations of qualifying for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association regional tournaments.
But as the action continued at the Tom Gwyn Tennis Complex, four programs quickly separated themselves from the rest of the league members.
On the 1A side, it was MVAC champion East Wilkes and Elkin who occupied all the semifinal spots while West Wilkes and Ashe County proved to be the frontrunners on the 2A side.
Despite neither Wilkes Central nor North Wilkes winning a match in the tournament, there were still some solid performances.
Kiaya Barber had the Eagles’ best performance from either team as the sophomore forced a third-set tiebreaker in the 2A singles bracket against Ashe’s Sarah Corley.
After dropping a 6-1 first set, Barber tied the match with a 7-6 win in the second before Corley advanced with a 7-6 tiebreaker.
The tandem of Isabelle Curry and McKenzie Walker fought valiantly in the 2A doubles bracket against Ashe County’s Leigh Mckenzie and Hannah York before falling 6-4, 6-1.
Rebekah Wilson and Allie Billings turned in the Vikings’ best showing despite falling to West Wilkes’ Paige Phillips and Kendall Stanley 6-4, 6-2.
Phillips and Stanley lost to Ashe County’s Molly Ruppard and Karoline Keith in the semifinals but qualified for the NCHSAA 2A Midwest Regionals next weekend at Salsibury High School.
The tandem won the third-place match over Mckenzie and York 7-5, 6-0.
For the fourth year in a row, a Blackhawk captured the MVAC 2A singles title when Zoey Albert bested Ashe County’s Elizabeth Wallace in the finals 6-4, 6-1.
Albert, a freshman, won this year’s title after West Wilkes graduate Amanda Eddins won the last three 2A singles titles.
Blackhawk teammates Lizzie Church and Cassidy Miller also qualified for the 2A Midwest Regional as a couple thanks to their runner-up finish in the doubles bracket.
Elizabeth Minton just missed out on making it four West Wilkes qualifiers.
The senior lost to Ashe County’s Sarah Corley 6-3, 6-0
Despite dropping a 6-2, 6-4 decision to Molly Ruppard and Karoline Keith, they defeated McKenzie and York 6-3, 6-0 to qualify.
The tandem of East Wilkes’ Sylvia Prevette and Kaleigh Couch headlined the Cardinals with their MVAC championship in the 1A doubles bracket.
Prevette and Couch, both juniors, defeated a pair of Elkin doubles squads in the semifinals (6-1, 7-5 over Brittany Collins and Julie Cortez) and finals (6-2, 6-0 against Larklyn Nelson and Kenley Wells), respectively. The duo qualified for the 1A West Regional tournament next weekend in Elkin.
East teammates Jordan Schubart and Brianna Martin nearly qualified for regionals as well. The junior teammates dropped a 6-4 decision in the first set to Nelson and Wells, but battled back and tied the match with a 6-2 win. The Buckin’ Elks duo took the tiebreaker 6-0 to advance.
Cardinal sophomores Tristen Blevins and Kristie Brown also came up a match shy of qualifying for the regional tournament in 1A singles as both players reached the semifinals.
East Wilkes’ Lauren Felts and Chelsea Cockerham won the league’s JV tournament, which took place at East Wilkes High School.
Notes: Brackets for the NCHSAA dual tournament are scheduled to be unveiled on Monday with play to begin on Wednesday. East Wilkes, which garnered the MVAC’s automatic 1A spot, will host a wildcard team in the opening round. West Wilkes garnered the MVAC’s automatic 2A bid and is scheduled to face the No. 2 seed out of the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference. According to Head Coach Angie Eddins that match will take place at Gwyn Tennis Complex in Elkin.