GRANITE QUARRY — East Rowan senior co-captain Lizzie Weaver completed her doubles match, packed up her gear and paced around the court for another minute.
It wasn’t a victory lap. Weaver just was in no hurry to go anywhere.
“I got all my crying out of the way earlier, but tennis has been such a big part of my life for such a long time,” Weaver said. “I really didn’t want to leave the court.”
The brightly colored signs on the rails overlooking the Erwin Middle School tennis courts were for Weaver and five teammates and revealed that it was Senior Day in Granite Quarry. Those signs created more emotion than East’s breezy 9-0 SPC win against Central Cabarrus.
Weaver won 6-0, 6-2 at No. 1 singles Monday and has made a lot of people leave the court on the short end of the score-flippers over the years. Twice, she was the North Piedmont Conference Player of the Year.
This season, with East moving to a South Piedmont Conference that is tougher than the North Piedmont, all Weaver has done is lead the Mustangs to another league championship.
“There is more competition in the SPC — there’s very good competition,” Weaver said. “But we just went out each match and did our best. I’m so proud of this team because it always keeps improving.”
If East wins at South Rowan Wednesday, the Mustangs (11-1) will be 8-0 in the league and will be undefeated in conference play for the fifth straight season.
“I realize we’re kind of in the shadows of Salisbury and all those state championships, and it’s not easy to get attention,” East coach Sunni Hill said cheerfully. “But East Rowan has had good tennis for a long time. I don’t think our girls think about anything other just wanting to win every match they play.”
East went 15-2 in 2012, winning a 3A playoff road match at Morganton Patton and winning a second-round home match against Crest. East lost a competitive match to Hickory in the third round. Hickory, in turn lost to Charlotte Catholic in the state semifinals, and Catholic won the state championship.
“We made the third round last year, and that was amazing, so going even further this year is a big team goal,” Weaver said.
Hill wasn’t sure what to expect in the SPC. She made calls and looked online, but there wasn’t much to go on. She did know Northwest would be good because the Trojans won the SPC in 2012, went 14-2 and made the second round of the 3A state playoffs. She also knew that Cox Mill, which has one of the state’s best singles players in Sarah Jiang, might be very tough.
“We tried to get information, but we kind of went into this league blind,” Hill said.
Michigan native Hill counted on East being good, with just one of the top six (Hannah Pressley) missing from 2012. She didn’t sleep much before the Mustangs played at Northwest on Sept, 18, but the Mustangs swept singles and won 8-1.
“Knowing Northwest was the defending SPC champion, the girls played their hearts out,” Hill said.
East also was able to handle its other two challenging SPC matches, beating Cox Mill 7-2 and Carson 8-1.
Hill, in her third year as head coach, knew she could depend on Weaver and knew that the Agner sisters, senior co-captain Rebecca and sophomore Laura, would play No. 2 and No. 3, in some order.
“Rebecca is our No. 2 now, but the Agners are very close in ability,” Hill said. “They play each other a lot, and it’s always very close. They compete with each other hard, but when it’s over, no matter who wins, they hug.”
No. 4 singles player Lauren Thomas is best known for basketball, a sport she started playing when she was 4, but she’s also good in tennis, a sport she tried for the first time in middle school. She’s undefeated in singles this season.
“Lauren has an amazing volley,” Hill said.
Senior Drew Pethel and junior Emma Ritchie usually play No. 5 and No. 6, although Ritchie stepped aside Monday so that senior Taylor Trexler could play singles and doubles. Not only was it senior day, it was Trexler’s birthday, so Ritchie was being a team player. That sort of camaraderie is priceless.
“It kind of hits you hard when you see those senior signs that say ‘good luck in college,’ and you know this is ending soon,” Thomas said. “But it’s always been an honor to have been part of this team. We’re strong, we’re deep, and I have such good teammates.”
East will take a hit with graduation, but Hill says there are good players in the pipeline such as junior Kayce Wilson and freshman Katie Barnes. Plus, Erwin always sends over a couple of girls who can play.
“They’ll be fine next year,” Thomas said. “The girls behind us are just as good. If they had played today, they could’ve done what we did.”
The impossible job for Hill will be replacing Weaver.
“The thing that’s made Lizzie special is her heart,” Hill said. “She’s the most driving competitor I know.”
NOTES: Weaver doesn’t plan to play college tennis, unless it’s on the club team. She wants to go to N.C. State for engineering. ... Weaver and Laura Agner will compete in singles in next Tuesday’s SPC tournament at Concord’s Les Myers Community Park. Rebecca Agner and Thomas will compete as a doubles team. Ritchie and Pethel also will be a doubles pairing. ... East will be at home for the first round of the dual team playoffs against a No. 2 seed. ... East’s loss this season was to Gray Stone. The Knights are state-title contenders in 1A.