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Salisbury talent not limited to top six

By Bret Strelow
bstrelow@salisburypost.com
Salisbury’s top six tennis players competed in singles against West Davidson in early September.
Six more participated in doubles against the Green Dragons, who occupy third place in the CCC, and the Hornets won handily.
Salisbury has stockpiled enough talent to field two successful teams, and the school’s dominance creates opportunities for reserves to prove themselves.
“At the risk of sounding overconfident, I honestly believe that not only do we have the best team in the conference, but we probably have the second best team as well with some of our girls that don’t play on a normal basis,” Salisbury coach Chris Myers said.
The Hornets, ranked second in the state among 2A squads, clinched a sixth consecutive conference title by blanking second-place Ledford last Wednesday. They won 6-3 against Ragsdale, the eighth-ranked 3A team, on Monday.
Members of Salisbury’s top six ó Hannah Lebowitz, Kirstin Meyerhoeffer, Brooke Johnson, Shea Comadoll, Joy Loeblein and Erika Nelson ó have combined to go 83-9 in singles and 33-3 in doubles this season.
Seniors such as Sun Dragas, Sarah Truemper and Dzenita Sukurica ó all four-year players ó have helped the remaining Hornets compile marks of 10-0 in singles and 14-1 in doubles.
“It feels good to have opportunities to play top-six matches because it makes you feel like Coach Myers has confidence in the whole team, not just the top six,” Dragas said. “There is pressure, but I like it.
“I think if I was on a weaker team I wouldn’t be as good as I am right now ó not saying that I’m good, but I think the good players on the team push me to be better because we are a team. There is competition ó you don’t want to look like you’re weaker than anybody else or that others work harder. I’m proud of my team, and I am a part of it.”
Eleven different Hornets have played at least one meaningful singles match this season, and Myers has used 16 players to form 17 different doubles combinations.
Sierra Davis and Mary Margaret Mills are 3-0 as individuals, and Sukurica is 2-0. Sarah Shirley and Mally Fisher are each 1-0.
Six of those 10 matches ended with a 6-0, 6-0 result, and an opponent didn’t win more than two games in any set.
“In the coming years some of our top six won’t be here, so it gives us a chance to improve and get better,” Davis said. “It helps us build our team, and we have a really deep team.”
In doubles, Dragas and Truemper are 5-0. The tandem of Davis-Sukurica is 2-0, and seven other pairings are 1-0. Davis-Mills dropped a tiebreaker at No. 2 doubles against West Davidson’s top two players.
Truemper, who won at No. 1 doubles against Central Davidson as a sophomore, teamed with Dragas for an 8-2 victory at No. 1 against West Davidson this season.
“Even if you’re not top six, you still try your best to come out winning,” Truemper said. “I got to play No. 1 doubles a couple times, and I love it. It gives you a different perspective.”
Dragas, Truemper and Sukurica are all undefeated in limited action during their careers.
Dragas’ 19-0 record includes 12 doubles wins, and 10 doubles victories have contributed to Truemper’s 13-0 mark. Sukurica is 8-0 in six doubles appearances and two singles showings.
“We don’t think that we’re any less better than the top six because we’re not on it,” Sukurica said. “We’re pretty confident in how we play.”
With 20 members, the team is the largest one Myers has coached at Salisbury.
The roster size makes organizing practices more difficult, but Myers gains additional satisfaction from watching unheralded players perform well.
“It’s as much fun as anything when you get to see these girls have opportunities that don’t typically play on a daily basis and see how excited they get,” Myers said. “They’re not only excited, but they go out there and expect to win like our normal top six. You can see that in the way they carry themselves and prepare for those opportunities.”

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