The third time wasn’t the charm for Orange against its archrival, but it was much, much closer.
In the end, the Cedar Ridge women’s tennis team came away with its first win in the state team tournament since 2016.
In a dual match that came down to the final doubles match, Raven Mowles-Airing and Annabeth Lundberg captured the #3 doubles battle against Violet Shaw and Ellie Wilson 7-6, winning the tiebreaker 7-3. Cedar Ridge won the overall match 5-4 against the Lady Panthers at Red Wolves Tennis Courts in the opening round of the 3A State Dual Team Playoffs.
Cedar Ridge, the #14 seed, advances to face Rocky Mount in the round of 32 on Monday.
Orange ends the season 13-6, the fifth time in six years that Orange has won at least ten dual matches in a season.
It is Cedar Ridge’s first win in the State Tournament since November 1, 2016, when they defeated Walter Williams 5-3 in Hillsborough.
Cedar Ridge swept the regular season series against Orange, winning on September 5 and September 27, each time by a score of 6-3. The final match, at Panthers Tennis Courts, was an intense affair where points were replayed because of various objections by coaches and players. It led to Orange coach Justin Webb and Cedar Ridge coach Steve Mayhew taking the unusual step of acting as judges, standing on opposite sides of the net, to preside over a doubles match. Afterwards, vibes from the Cedar Ridge victory spilled over onto social media, namely on Instagram.
With that experience likely in the back of their minds, Orange played with a purpose. Of the three doubles matches, two of them went to tiebreakers. Four of the nine matches overall had tiebreakers. The doubles team of Erinn and Shannon Sollars won at #1 doubles match over Cedar Ridge’s Cameron Mayhew and Adeline Cummings 7-6, winning the tiebreaker 7-5.
Mayhew and Cummings handed the Sollars sisters its only two losses of the regular season. On September 5, Mayhew & Cummings won 8-5. At Orange, Mayhew & Cummings prevailed 8-4.
Cedar Ridge won the other two doubles matches to advance to the second round. Junior Ella Caltabiano and Catherine Ballenger defeated Molly Kruse and Makayla Davis 8-6 at #2 doubles to even the dual match 4-4. The victory by Mowles-Airing and Lundberg set Cedar Ridge to the second round.
Cedar Ridge’s Cameron Mayhew won at #1 singles over Erinn Sollars 6-4, 6-1. Mayhew improved to 14-2 on the season.
Orange’s Shannon Sollars evened the match with a victory over Caltabiano 6-3, 6-0. Sollars, a junior who is now 15-1 on the season in singles play, will likely be the Lady Panthers #1 singles player in 2024.
Cummings gave the Red Wolves the advantage again when she defeated Davis 7-6 (7-2), 7-5, which proved to be a huge victory. It was the third matchup between Cummings and Davis this year. They had split their previous matchups, with Davis winning 10-7 on September 5. On September 27, Cummings won 6-0, 4-6, 11-9 (the third set was a 10-point tiebreaker).
Wilson, an Orange freshman, squared the match at #4 singles with a victory over Mowles-Airing 6-3, 7-6 (7-4). Orange sophomore Molly Kruse defeated Ballenger 6-0, 6-1. Cedar Ridge’s Lundberg defeated Violet Shaw 6-4, 6-2 to gain a split in the singles matches.
The Red Wolves 14 dual match victories are the most they’ve had since the 2016 squad went 19-2, winning the Big 8 Conference Championship over teams like Chapel Hill and Northwood.
On Friday, the Mideast Regionals were held at the Burlington Tennis Center. Annie Lieberman of Terry Sanford, the #2 overall seed, defeated Mayhew 6-0, 6-3 in the opening round.
For Orange, Erin and Shannon Sollars narrowly missed qualifying for the 3A State Championships for the second straight year. In the opening round, the Sollars defeated Andrea Romero and Sophie McLean of Harnett Central 6-0, 6-1 in the opening round. In the quarterfinals, the Sollars faced a Central Carolina Conference rival. Lindley Oler and Lauren Turner of Walter Williams won a tight match, beating the Sollars 6-4, 7-6 (11-9).
The Sollars sisters reached the 3A State Tournament quarterfinals in 2022.
Makayla Davis and Molly Kruse also qualified for regionals, falling to Shea Bieniek and Anna Piland of Cape Fear in the opening round. Bieniek and Piland would go on to qualify for the state championships.