Hilton Head gains valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence in cham­pi­onship loss

The Island Packet (Sunday) - - Sports - BY CHRIS DEARING Spe­cial for The Is­land Packet

Hilton Head coach Jen­nifer Weit­ekam­per knew her young squad was go­ing up against a se­nior­laden team in A.C. Flora in the Class 4A girls’ ten­nis state cham­pi­onship Satur­day af­ter­noon at the Lex­ing­ton County Ten­nis Cen­ter.

Weit­ekam­per had three eighth-graders and no se­niors in the start­ing lineup go­ing against a team that lost in the 2015 and 2017 fi­nals that fea­tured nine se­niors. The Sea­hawks had one re­turn­ing player from the 2016 state run­ner-up team. She was hop­ing that wouldn’t play a fac­tor, but it did as the Falcons won their first ten­nis state cham­pi­onship in the 5-1 vic­tory.

“We have one player from two years ago and at that time, she was an eighth-grader,” Weit­ekam­per said. “She’s our most ex­pe­ri­enced. We have three eighth-graders in the lineup now. We’re and extremely young, play out every point team. We’re tough, grind it down and never in­tim­i­dated be­cause they’re just hav­ing fun. That ma­tu­rity with the game is go­ing to come. We had to play with heart and make sure we un­der­stood that every point counted. We just came up a lit­tle bit short to­day.”

Emily Ruc­kno was the lone win­ner for Hilton Head, ral­ly­ing for a 1-6, 7-5, 10-8 win at No. 1 sin­gles over Raquel Acco.

A.C. Flora’s Me­gan Pleas­ant won at No. 2 sin­gles eas­ily, 6-1, 6-1, to set the tone. Elise San­dlin, Frances Smith and the No. 2 dou­bles team of Siona Stur­geon and Carolina Coble each pulled out wins as well for the Falcons.

“It feels great. I’m just re­ally happy for the girls,” A.C. Flora coach Amy Martin said. “They came out of the gate from the first part of Au­gust and fin­ished it up to­day. It’s been a sweet ride. The se­niors all played last year, and they re­mem­ber the feel­ing of leav­ing here and los­ing such a close match. They weren’t go­ing to be de­nied to­day.”

Weit­ekam­per feels like her team has an op­portu- nity to be back in this spot next sea­son.

“We take away ex­pe­ri­ence, ma­tu­rity and the good thing is we don’t lose any­one,” she said. “All of them will be back so hope­fully we can rise to the chal­lenge.”

A.C. FLORA 5, HILTONHEAD 1

Emily Ruc­kno (HH) d. Raquel Acco 1-6, 7-5, 10-8; Me­gan Pleas­ant (ACF) d. Syd­ney Hall 6-1, 6-1; Elise San­dlin (ACF) d. Sierra Seabra 6-1, 7-6 (8-6); Frances Smith (ACF) d. Danielle Sil­van 6-4, 6-2; Bre­land Gann (ACF) d. Madeleine Pol­litzer 6-3, 1- 6, 11-9.

Siona Stur­geon/ Caroline Coble (ACF) d. Stella LeMe­haute/Katie Watts 6-1, 7-5.

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