Hilton Head coach Jennifer Weitekamper knew her young squad was going up against a senior-laden team in A.C. Flora in the Class 4A girls’ tennis state championship Saturday afternoon at the Lexington County Tennis Center.
Weitekamper had three eighth-graders and no seniors in the starting lineup going against a team that lost in the 2015 and 2017 finals that featured nine seniors. The Seahawks had one returning player from the 2016 state runner-up team. She was hoping that wouldn’t play a factor, but it did as the Falcons won their first tennis state championship in the 5-1 victory.
“We have one player from two years ago and at that time, she was an eighth-grader,” Weitekamper said. “She’s our most experienced. We have three eighth-graders in the lineup now. We’re and extremely young, play out every point team. We’re tough, grind it down and never intimidated because they’re just having fun. That maturity with the game is going to come. We had to play with heart and make sure we understood that every point counted. We just came up a little bit short today.”
Emily Ruckno was the lone winner for Hilton Head, rallying for a 1-6, 7-5, 10-8 win at No. 1 singles over Raquel Acco.
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A.C. Flora’s Megan Pleasant won at No. 2 singles easily, 6-1, 6-1, to set the tone. Elise Sandlin, Frances Smith and the No. 2 doubles team of Siona Sturgeon and Carolina Coble each pulled out wins as well for the Falcons.
“It feels great. I’m just really happy for the girls,” A.C. Flora coach Amy Martin said. “They came out of the gate from the first part of August and finished it up today. It’s been a sweet ride. The seniors all played last year, and they remember the feeling of leaving here and losing such a close match. They weren’t going to be denied today.”
Weitekamper feels like her team has an opportunity to be back in this spot next season.
“We take away experience, maturity and the good thing is we don’t lose anyone,” she said. “All of them will be back so hopefully we can rise to the challenge.”
A.C. Flora 5, Hilton Head 1
Singles: Emily Ruckno (HH) d. Raquel Acco 1-6, 7-5, 10-8; Megan Pleasant (ACF) d. Sydney Hall 6-1, 6-1; Elise Sandlin (ACF) d. Sierra Seabra 6-1, 7-6 (8-6); Frances Smith (ACF) d. Danielle Silvan 6-4, 6-2; Breland Gann (ACF) d. Madeleine Pollitzer 6-3, 1-6, 11-9. Doubles: Siona Sturgeon/Caroline Coble (ACF) d. Stella LeMehaute/Katie Watts 6-1, 7-5.