SUMTER -- Porter-Gaud's girls finally have their state championship.
Three-time defending state tennis champion Ashley Hall wasn't around to torment the Cyclones this time, and Hilton Head Prep wasn't up to the task of defeating the Cyclones three straight times this season.
The Cyclones (12-3) won the SCISA Class AAA title Saturday with a 5-2 win over Hilton Head Prep (11-3) as senior Mi'Kola Cooper capped her career with a comeback singles victory and a dominant doubles win with junior partner Annie Hay.
Porter-Gaud also got singles wins from Hay, eighth-grader Lexi Steichen and seventh-grader Ann Martin Skelly.
Coach Brian Burke said all week that no one had beaten his team on hard courts when the Cyclones had a full lineup. Cooper and her teammates were definitely "on" this time against a Hilton Head Prep team that had beaten the Cyclones, 5-1, a few weeks ago on clay when Cooper, Hay and Steichen all lost to the young Dolphins, who start four eighth-graders in singles.
"This means everything to me. I'm happy I finally got a state championship," Cooper said.
But this one didn't come easily, and it was Cooper's never-say-die attitude that allowed the Cyclones to take a 4-2 lead into doubles where she teamed with Hay for an impressive 6-0, 6-3 win over freshman Allie Burak and eighth-grader Cameron Kriscunas to clinch the championship.
When Burak and Kriscunas threatened to make things interesting by closing to 4-3 down in the second set while the Dolphins were ahead in the other two doubles matches, Cooper took things personal. She broke out of deuce with a deep, athletic overhead for a break point and then put her team ahead 5-3 with a blistering backhand down the line. One game later, the Porter-Gaud girls were celebrating.
Despite jumping off to a 3-0 lead against Burak in No. 1 singles, Cooper dropped the first set in a tiebreaker and had to win the last five points in a third set match tiebreaker to end the nearly three-hour match as a winner, 6-7 (7-5), 6-2, 10-5.
Earlier, Hay scored a 6-0, 4-1, retire win over Kriscunas at No. 2 singles, Steichen posted a 7-5, 6-1 victory over senior Maggie Colket at No. 5, and left-handed 12-year-old Skelly closed out her first season without dropping a set by cruising past Katie Rankin, 6-0, 6-1, at No. 6 singles. Up 4-2, the Cyclones only needed one win in doubles.
Singles: Mi'Kola Cooper (PG) d. Allie Burak, 6-7, 6-2, 10-5; Annie Hay (PG) d. Cameron Kriscunas, 6-0, 4-1, retired; Shannon O'Brien (HHP) d. Grace Robards, 6-2, 3-6, 10-6; Ellie Czura (HHP) d. Carissa Steichen, 6-0, 6-2; Lexi Steichen (PG) d. Maggi Colket, 7-5, 6-1; Ann Martin Skelly (PG) d. Katie Rankin, 6-0, 6-1.
Doubles: Cooper/Hay (PG) d. Burak/Kriscunas, 6-0, 6-3.
Holly Hill Academy falls
Spartanburg Day (8-0) jumped ahead in singles, then won the only doubles match it needed to post a 5-2 win over Holly Hill Academy (17-3) to win the SCISA Class AA title.
"I really thought we were going to do it," Holly Hill coach Miriam Bessent said. "They were a lot more consistent than we were."
Singles: Celia Jeffords (SD) d. Morgan Cantley, 3-6, 6-2, 10-8; Ansley DeVore (SD) d. Tressa Hutto, 6-2, 6-1; Hunter Paramore (HH) d. Bailey Foster, 6-2, 6-1; Jamie Montagne (SD) d. Raven Hutson, 6-3, 6-3; Ashton McLean (HH) d. Carrie Gould, 6-1, 1-6, 10-4; Rose Cochran (SD) d. Kristi O'Connell, 7-6, 6-2.
Doubles: Cochran/Montagne (SD) d. Hutson/McLean, 6-3, 6-4.
Reach James Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See his columns on pro tennis at ubitennis.com/english.