MOUNT PLEASANT — Bishop England girls tennis coach Kristin Fleming gambled on doubles, and won in singles — thanks to senior Kelly McManus’ gritty performance and victories in new starting roles by seventh-grader Lauren Quinn and freshman Gabrielle Dacuba.
Put those three wins with a solid victory by junior Caroline Yodice, and Bishop England (21-4) is one win away from repeating as the High School League’s Class AA state tennis champion after the Bishops clinched the Lower State title in singles in a convincing 5-1 win over archrival Waccamaw (10-4) Thursday at LTP Tennis.
The Bishops now face Christ Church, which beat Governor’s School 5-1 in the Upper State championship, in Saturday’s 10 a.m. state final at Columbia’s Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center.
“I thought that if Kelly could win at No. 2, we would win at 3, 4 and 5,” Fleming said. And that’s exactly what happened as the veteran McManus outplayed Waccamaw senior Sarah Elliott, 6-3, 6-3.
“During the summer, we had a ladder and I started out No. 4 (the same spot she played in last year’s match against Waccamaw) and worked my way up,” McManus said.
Yodice yielded three games at No. 3, while Quinn gave up only one game at No. 4. That left Dacuba to clinch the match with a 6-2, 7-6 (5) win over Waccamaw junior Lindsay Costin at No. 5. Quinn and Dacuba were part of Fleming’s surprise package for the visiting Warriors as the two young players replaced injured junior Hannah Simpson and senior Emma Schaafsma at Nos. 4 and 5 singles.
Fleming was saving Simpson and Schaafsma for doubles, but the Bishops’ success in singles made doubles unnecessary, although the teams played No. 2 doubles where Schaafsma and Gabby French easily prevailed to complete the 5-1 final score.
“I was a little bit nervous, I guess,” Dacuba said. “It feels good to win the clincher.”
Fleming praised her young star. “Gabrielle is a competitor ... a fighter,” she said.
Waccamaw’s only win came at No. 1 singles where Elon-bound senior Tolley Rice rallied from 5-1 down in the second set to score a 6-3, 7-5 win over BE junior Liza Arruda.
Fleming was pleased with her young team’s play. “I’ve played different players together all season to get ready for the playoffs,” she said. “We have a lot of depth and experience, allowing us to play different combinations.”
BISHOP ENGLAND 5, WACCAMAW 1
SINGLES: Tolley Rice (W) def. Liza Arruda, 6-3, 7-5; Kelly McManus (BE) def. Sarah Elliott, 6-3, 6-3; Caroline Yodice (BE) def. Catalina Carr, 6-1, 6-2; Lauren Quinn (BE) def. Lizzie Farmer, 6-0, 6-1; Gabrielle Dacuba (BE) def. Lindsay Costin, 6-2, 7-6 (5).
DOUBLES: Emma Schaafsma/Gabby French (BE) def. Catherine Lowe/Caitlyn Krask, 8-1.