Girls high school tennis appears to be experiencing at least a temporary shift of power away from perennial powers Porter-Gaud and Ashley Hall.
That isn’t to say one of these two local schools might not advance to this year’s SCISA Class AAA state championship match for the seventh straight year. Prior to Hilton Head Prep’s 5-1 romp past Porter-Gaud in last year’s title match, Ashley Hall and Porter-Gaud had teamed up to win the last four state titles.
From the start this season, Hilton Head Prep has been an overwhelming favorite after charging to an 8-1 win over Porter-Gaud last week in the Cyclones’ SCISA opener. The match was played on clay at Hilton Head Island, which made things more difficult for first-year coach Charlotte Hartsock’s Porter-Gaud team.
The fact Hilton Head Prep dropped only one game to Porter-Gaud freshman standout Ann Martin Skelly at No. 1 singles while sweeping all six singles positions was impressive for coach Job de Boer’s defending champions.
Meanwhile, Mary Gastley’s Ashley Hall team suffered losses to Heathwood Hall and Hilton Head Christian in its first two matches, and plays at Hilton Head Prep on Tuesday. The Panthers are currently 4-3 overall.
“They (Hilton Head Prep) are stronger than last year, but we are gaining more and more experience as the season progresses and hoping to continue to improve and build for the future,” Gastley said.
“We are hanging in there. I have eight girls on the team and they are all returning players. Two of the eight played in the starting lineup last year (junior Tiffany Dye played No. 4 and sophomore Gyles Laney played No. 6). Obviously we’re missing standout players from the past — Narni (Summerall) and Rossi (Anastopoulo).”
Freshman Linsey Yarbrough has taken over the Panthers’ No. 1 slot, a position that has been played by the winners of the last five Lowcountry player of the year awards (Jamie Harrell, Patricia Kirkland and Summerall).
The shift also is showing up among local competition. Two-time defending High School League Class AA state champion Bishop England already has scored a 6-0 win over Ashley Hall, and defeated Porter-Gaud, Wando, Beaufort and Class AA perennial power Waccamaw in preseason scrimmages.
Coach Kristin Fleming has three outstanding seniors back from the Bishops’ state championship years, All-Lowcountry captain Liza Arruda, hard-hitting Caroline Yodice and captain Hannah Simpson. The Bishops have excellent depth as three more talented and experienced young players from the 2012 state championship team are back — eighth-grader Lauren Quinn, sophomore Gabrielle Dacuba and junior Ashlyn Ohlendorf.
The Bishops, who lost to 2012 Class AAAA state finalist Dutch Fork in the finals of the preseason Florence tournament, will hold their fourth annual BE Tournament next weekend with 16 teams competing. The event will be held at Snee Farm Country Club, LTP Tennis, and Creekside Tennis and Swim.
“We’re looking forward to winning our region and winning our third straight state championship,” Fleming said.
The deadline is Sept. 23 for entering the 32nd annual Alan Fleming Tennis Tournament, which is scheduled for Oct. 2-6 at Seabrook Island. More than 250 players in age groups starting at 35-and-over annually compete in the event.
The tournament will be a “Pilot” event with USTA National designation for mixed doubles with potential for National Championship status in 2014, according to tournament officials. The tournament is named after the late Alan Fleming, a longtime Seabrook resident and father of former Wimbledon and U.S. Open doubles champion Peter Fleming.
Last year’s tournament raised more than $50,000 to benefit the Hospice of Charleston Foundation.
Information on the tournament is available online at www.usta.com.
The College of Charleston’s women’s tennis team will serve as host for the 12th annual C of C Invitational next weekend. Seven teams, including the Cougars and Coastal Carolina, Davidson, Stetson, Samford, UNC-Wilmington and Armstrong Atlantic, will compete in a flighted format.