WCDS state tennis champs
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 1, 2011 1:49 PM
The well wishes from friends and teachers echoed throughout the halls and classrooms when Sarah Best, Gianna Democko and Katherine Roethling returned to Wayne Country Day on Monday morning.
"Way to go Sarah!"
"Good job girls!"
Best admits their weekend success hasn't sunk in ... yet. A year-long dream became reality, but the trio still feels like its living a fantasy.
Oh, but it's true girls. You're state champions.
Sarah Best emerged the top player at No. 2 singles and Democko-Roethling paired up to win the No. 2 doubles crown during the season-ending N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A state tennis tournament contested at Barton College in Wilson.
Best is the fourth Wayne County player to emerge a state champion in singles since 2003, and first in WCDS program history since 1999 when Erin Logan and Carlin Kannan each won a singles crown. Democko-Roethling are believed to be the county's first doubles champions since the late 1980s and early 1990s when the Chargers ruled the NCISAA girls' tennis scene.
"It's just amazing what these girls have done considering some don't pick up a racquet until the beginning of (preseason) practice," said WCDS head coach Jo Ann Logan. "What makes this so special is that two years ago we only managed one point (at states) and now we finish fourth with 19.
"(There is) no telling what we could have done if these girls played year round. I told the girls this tournament was more satisfying than any of those state championship teams I coached."
Best, who finished the season unbeaten, launched her gold-medal run with a 6-2, 6-2 triumph over a Trinity of Raleigh player in the opening round. The junior lost just one game in her, straight-set semifinal-round triumph over Camille Benhke from Trinity of Durham.
Jacklyn Googins of perennial 1-A giant Statesville Christian awaited in the title match. Googins claimed a tension-filled first set, which rattled the usually steady Best.
"Coach (Logan) told me to stay calm and not worry about things," said Best. "I was thinking, not only for me, but I wanted to win for (doubles mate) Mack (Thompson) and Kat because it's their senior year and I wanted them to have something to celebrate, too."
Best claimed the second set and grabbed a 5-0 lead in the third-set super tiebreaker. Googins crept back into the tiebreaker, but Best regained her focus and claimed the state title.
It was Googins' first loss of the season.
Democko, an eighth-grader, finished state runner-up to Statesville's Nicki Segur at the No. 1 singles flight. She used that disappointment as motivation in doubles.
Once Democko-Roethling settled into a groove, their opponents didn't stand a chance. The Charger duo posted 8-0 shutouts in their first two matches against Burlington Christian and Trinity of Durham.
"It's a natural thing for me the way I can adapt to the way that a person plays, but in doubles, we definitely work well together," said Democko.
The twosome doubled up Greenfield's Kenan Barnes-Hannah Farrell 8-4 in the championship match. It's the best finish for a WCDS doubles team since 2002 when Hannah Grantham-Miller Leonard finished runners-up at No. 2 doubles in the state tournament.
"She's got a signature shot and once I learned how to set that up, it worked every time," grinned Roethling. "It was a perfect way to end my senior year, and it was great having someone to share it with."
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