Prep tennis: New roles, regulars for county powers
By Bret Strelow
Hannah Lebowitz is Salisbury’s top-ranked tennis player for the third consecutive season, but her role has changed significantly.
Lebowitz, a senior who has helped lead the Hornets to a pair of 2A state championships during her prep career, now anchors a top six that normally includes two sophomores and two freshmen.
“I remember my first match as a freshman like it was yesterday, so it’s weird being a senior,” Lebowitz said.
Lebowitz excelled as a newcomer in 2006, when the Hornets beat Cardinal Gibbons in the state final, and she ascended to No. 1 on the team as a sophomore. Lebowitz played alongside five upperclassmen, including highly seeded seniors Casey Collins and Susie Wear.
The remaining members of that lineup ó Kirstin Meyerhoeffer, Brooke Johnson and Shea Comadoll ó were ranked second, third and fourth a year ago as seniors.
Lebowitz is one of three returning starters ó the other two are sophomores Joy Loeblein and Erika Nelson ó from a group that defeated Gibbons in another state final.
“It feels different because I’ve always felt kind of like a younger person on the team, but I’ve tried to be a leader like the seniors and juniors have been in the past for me,” Lebowitz said. “I work my hardest every time I get on the court and keep as much of a positive attitude as I can.”
Loeblein, seeded fifth as a freshman, and Nelson, who was the No. 6 seed, have moved up three spots apiece.
Two talented freshmen ó Katelyn Storey and Anna Page ó often play in the fourth and fifth positions for the Hornets, who then have junior Sierra Davis rounding out the lineup.
Mary Margaret Mills (junior), Sallie Kate Meyerhoeffer (freshman) and Caroline Graham (freshman) are among the remaining players with a chance to contribute regularly. Mills won her singles match against East Rowan on Monday.
Lebowitz and Nelson didn’t drop a game against East. Loeblein won 6-1, 6-2 against Devan Corpening.
“Patience is a key for Joy and Erika, and I think they’re getting that,” Salisbury coach Chris Myers said. “I think early on, the first couple of matches, it was a bit of an adjustment. Playing at two and three is a lot different than playing at five and six. They’ve got to expect they’ll be playing some athletes every match out.”
Corpening played at No. 6 last season for East, which returns two starters from a team that finished second in the NPC.
The size of that 3A league has decreased from 10 schools to seven, and Statesville is the early favorite thanks to a 6-3 win against the Mustangs. The rematch is scheduled for Sept. 23 in Granite Quarry.
Brittany Honeycutt is East’s top-seeded player, and Corpening is followed in the lineup by Megan Bullins, Kayela Wilson, Katie Cassady and Hannah Pressley.Honeycutt was ranked fourth on the East team that won the NPC title in 2007, and she competed at No. 3 last year.
Honeycutt, like Lebowitz, is learning how to set an example for younger teammates from the top spot in the order.
“It was a real shock the first match I played,” Honeycutt said. “I kind of got out there, and it just all hit me at once and I kind of freaked out.
“Now that I’ve had more matches to play, I’ve really calmed down and tried to take my place as a leader. I just don’t really feel like a senior quite yet.”