Prep Tennis: Lady Panthers sizzling on court
When it comes to high school tennis in the state of North Carolina, Ledford High School is one of the most consistent programs.
Though the playoffs have been tough with perennial powers like Cardinal Gibbons standing in the way, the Lady Panthers are dominant during the regular season. So far in 2013, everything has been perfect with a 10-0 overall record and 6-0 Mid-Piedmont Conference mark.
“This whole team is one big family and from top to bottom, 1-16, they are fantastic,” said Grimes. “My top three are some of the best around the area.”
The product on the court is indeed stout, with a super sophomore leading the way. Taylor Freeman made a name for herself in the 3-A ranks as a freshman, losing deep into the individual state playoffs. She is back again at the No. 1 singles spot and has not lost a match so far.
“Taylor is one of the best sophomore's in the state and has an awesome work ethic,” said Grimes. “She has the best hands of any high school female player I have ever coached. I am very lucky to have her.”
One court over stands a player at No. 2 that is still relatively new to the game of tennis. Possessing a strong forehand shot, Elizabeth Stroup is tenacious on the court and has good footwork.
“Stroup is in her third year of playing period, and she has turned into a great No. 2 player,” Grimes said. “She is a heady player and when she is focused she is awesome.”
On court No. 3 stands a small, but gritty player in Erin Crotts. Grimes says she has improved steadily in her career.
“Erin is a great young lady and one of the sweetest girls I have ever coached,” he said. “Her skill level has improved every year. She has a great record so far and is an unbelievable competitor.”
LHS is steady on courts 4-6 as well. Emma Caroline Russell competes at No. 4, solid freshman Sarah Richardson has not lost a set so far at No. 5, and Katie Wilson rounds out the starting lineup at No. 6.
The Panthers had a close call earlier this season at Wheatmore. Without two of its players, Ledford held on in the final doubles match to win 5-4.
A close match is expected Monday against new MPC foe Western Guilford.
“That is going to be one of our toughest matches of the year,” said Grimes. “I am expecting the same thing out of Western Guilford as we saw against Wheatmore. They have a terrific No. 1 and terrific No. 2. They rest of the girls are good and they are seasoned. They will be disciplined and the Mid-Piedmont Conference will likely come down to the two of us.”
The match is scheduled for 4:30 in Wallburg.