First Posted: 10/9/2014
RAEFORD — Purnell Swett High senior girls tennis player Kali Strickland earned a school-record fourth trip to the regional tournament after a second-place finish in the Southeastern Conference tournament at Hoke.
She’s one of six tennis players from the county to advance to the regional round next weekend in Wilmington. Teammate Genna Locklear won two matches Wednesday to finish fifth and earn her first trip to regionals. Lumberton will send the doubles teams of Abbi Cain and Abby Kinlaw, who took second, and Alexis Ard and Ivey Floyd, who took fourth.
The top five finishers in both singles and doubles qualified for regionals.
Strickland, seeded No. 2, defeated third-seeded Paige Sumner of Pinecrest 4-6, 7-6 (7-1), 6-1 in a semifinal match that lasted 2 1/2 hours before falling to top-seeded Emma Landry of Pinecrest 6-0, 6-2 in the finals. She was down 5-2 in the second set to Sumner before rallying to win the set.
“I’m so proud of Kali for gutting it out against Paige,” said Purnell Swett coach David Leek. “Paige is a hard-hitting left-hander and really played well against Kali. I thought Kali showed great maturity in hanging in there when things weren’t going her way and played like a senior down the stretch.
“There’s not much more you can say about Kali except I’m just happy to see great things happen to great people because she is certainly a great young lady. She holds every school record in girls’ tennis and I hope the post-season is good to her.”
Strickland is now 13-3 on the season and has a school-record 45 career wins.
Locklear, who is in her third season playing tennis, had to win two consolation matches Wednesday to qualify for regionals. She defeated Olivia Haley of Richmond 6-0, 6-0 before beating Kaylynn Leggette of Lumberton 6-2, 6-2 to finish fifth.
“I’m just so, so happy for Genna,” said coach Leek. “I know she probably didn’t get a lot of sleep last night because she was so excited. Kudos to her because she works so hard at tennis and really loves the game. I’m proud of her.”
Cain and Kinlaw, the top-seeded doubles team, lost in the finals to Pinecrest sisters Claudia and Chappy Ray. Cain and Kinlaw gutted out a three-set match in the semifinals in a win over Pinecrest’s Piper Davis and Emily Hodges.
Ard and Floyd lost a semifinal matchup to the Ray sisters before dropping the third-place match to Davis and Hodges.