Bishop England aims for fifth straight tennis title in AA; Wando back in AAAA final

Bishop England senior Gabrielle Dacuba has played key roles on the Bishops’ last three state championship teams. Frankie Mansfield/Moultrie News

Bishop England’s girls tennis team doesn’t have to search for leadership as the Bishops zero in on a fifth straight Class AA state title.

Senior Gabrielle Dacuba, and juniors Camryn Deames and Jenna Vroman already own a combined six state championships. Dacuba has played key roles on the Bishops’ last three state championship teams, and Deames starred on the last two.

The Bishops (14-3) will be going up against Christ Church (15-0) for the second straight year in Saturday morning’s state title match at Cayce Tennis Center.

“It is really exciting to be going for my fourth state championship,” Dacuba said. “I thought one state championship would be good . . . but four would be amazing.”

Dacuba is from a tennis family. Her dad (Michael) played at Charleston Southern, and her mother (Tiffany) plays in the local CALTA league, while her brother Lleyton, a sophomore at Bishop England, helped the boys team win a state title last spring, and eighth-grader Zachary plans to be playing for the Bishops next fall.

“We’ve all played (tennis) since we were little kids and it’s always been a big part of our lives,” Gabrielle said.

A year ago against Christ Church, Vroman, Deames and Dacuba won three singles matches and then the Vroman/Deames doubles team gave the Bishops a 4-3 win over Christ Church in the state final. Dacuba had to pull out a 10-8 third-set tiebreaker at No. 3 to give the Bishops a 3-2 edge in singles

“It will be another really good match, another battle,” Dacuba said about the Christ Church matchup. “The whole team needs to bring our ‘A’ game to win this state championship. The girl (Lauren Allen) I played last year (at No. 3) has moved up to No. 1 this year.”

Perennial power Christ Church is strong again. The Cavaliers from Greenville have dominated everyone they have played this season, losing only two positions in a season that has included a 5-1 win over 2014 Class AAAA state champion Dutch Fork and a 7-0 blitzing of AAAA upper state runner-up T.L. Hanna.

“I have two state titles now, but I want to get No. 3,” said Deames. “It would be great to have three state championships. It would be really awesome if Gabrielle could win a fourth.”

The key to it all might be the 5-6 Vroman, who possesses a forehand that has earned her the nickname “The Rocket” from Family Circle Tennis Center pro Bryan Minton.

Vroman led the Bishops all the way in 2014 in her first year of high school tennis. It wasn’t a given that the Bishops would be back in the state final this season after Vroman suffered a wrist injury after playing one match and didn’t return to the lineup until Tuesday’s 6-0 Lower State championship win over Aynor. But the Bishops’ exceptional depth then came into play. And now the “big three” are leading the way again. Vroman, Deames and Dacuba are so talented that all three have the potential to play college tennis.

“I was playing really well before I hurt my wrist,” said the power-hitting Vroman. “Everything is fine now and I’m playing well, but my game isn’t where I want it to be yet.”

The injury was to Vroman’s left wrist, preventing her from hitting her powerful two-handed backhand.

Deames and Dacuba stepped up to Nos. 1 and 2 while Vroman was sidelined, and the Bishops hardly missed a beat.

“I’m so excited to be playing again,” said Vroman. “I had been out and hadn’t been able to hit backhands since early September.

“It’s been so much fun. I love all of the girls on the team. It’s just such an awesome feeling (to be going for another state title). When I started playing (on the team) I didn’t think it was going to be that big a deal, but now it’s just so awesome being part of the team,” added Vroman, who played volleyball as a freshman before switching to tennis.

“The state is a really a big deal . . . a chance of a lifetime. We definitely can win another state title, but Christ Church was good last year (and has four of its starters back).”

Of course, another key component for Bishop England is its coach. Kristin Fleming Arnold gave birth to twins during the summer, but hasn’t missed a beat on the court as she goes for her second state title in less than six months. Fleming Arnold also doubles as the boys coach at Bishop England.

The girls realize they have a special coach who helped the Bishops win state titles as a player and then played college tennis. She is an experienced and savvy coach, who knows all of the pitfalls and highs of championship tennis matches.

“Kristin is great,” said Deames. “We love going to the practices. Everyone on the team loves her. It’s great having a coach like her. She is a great mentor.”

Wando (24-1) will be playing in its second straight Class AAAA girls state final on Saturday morning at Cayce Tennis Center, going against Boiling Springs (17-1).

Boiling Springs scored a 4-3 win over Dutch Fork in the semifinals of the upper state bracket and then defeated T.L. Hanna, 4-2, to earn a berth in the state final.

Wando, with first-year coach Eric Praedel at the helm, rolled past Bluffton, 5-1, in the Lower State final.

The Warriors suffered a 4-3 loss to Dutch Fork in last year’s state final, and their only loss this season came against Lexington in the Bishop England tournament.

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