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West Forsyth sweeps the singles and doubles championships

By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier

Winning a conference tournament in the middle of a regular season might seem odd for most of us. For the West Forsyth girls tennis team, they’re just embracing it.

West Forsyth swept the singles and doubles championships with freshman Sam McEachran winning the singles title, and senior Marion Idulsa and sophomore Vivian Do winning the doubles title last week at the Central Piedmont 4-A tournament at Reagan.

All semifinalists in singles and doubles received a berth into next month’s NCHSAA Class 4-A Midwest Regional, scheduled for June 18-19 at Huntersville Hopewell. That includes West Forsyth’s doubles team of Savannah Gilliam and Macy Vest, so all six players qualified for the regionals. The state championship will be held June 25-26.

The conference tournament is usually held immediately after the regular season, but because the girls season, which is normally in the fall, was played this season in the spring because of COVID-19, and the conference tournament would’ve conflicted with final exams. So the conference elected to play the tournament at the midway point of the season.

That worked out well for the Titans, who, as of Monday were 5-2 overall and 4-1 in the conference.

“We were just thrilled,” Coach Shana Krenz of the Titans said. “I’ve been doing this for eight seasons and it felt good to be the one that came out on top this time.”

The momentum started quickly for the Titans, especially McEachran. Although a freshman, McEachran hasn’t lost a match this season. She had a first-round bye, and then defeated Glenn’s Mikaela Schwenke 10-0 in the quarterfinals and Reagan’s Ashley Belnap 10-0 in the semifinals. Although McEachran reached the championship with ease, she had an interesting dilemma in front of her for the final. She had to face teammate Maria Nikas, who is a senior.

Nikas defeated Reagan’s Elizabeth Tomblyn 10-1 in the first round, East Forsyth’s Ellie Zaidi 10-1 in the quarterfinals, and Davie County’s Karlie Quinn 10-2 in the semifinals. That set up the championship between McEachran, the phenom, and Nikas, the veteran. McEachran’s youth and inexperience didn’t matter and she rolled past Nikas 6-4, 6-1 to win the championship.

“As a freshman it was kind of cool because, I don’t know, it was something cool to do because being a freshman player playing a senior in the finals,” McEachran said. “And playing my teammate was really fun.”

McEachran hasn’t lost a match this season.

“I’m not sure as far as my teammates go, but I went out there just hoping to do my best,” she said. “So, it was a really nice surprise that I got the results I did.”

Although Nikas lost the championship in straight sets, she took it in stride.

“I like playing (McEachran) because we play each other at practice,” Nikas said. “I mean, she’s better than me, so I’d rather play someone I can get better from instead of someone I can beat every time.”

Despite the convincing win for McEachran, she said playing her teammate Nikas, who is also her doubles partner at No. 1, was difficult.

“I think it definitely took a toll on me mentally,” she said. “You know, it’s my teammate and we’re really good friends, so it’s really different.”

Each match is a learning experience for Nikas, who lost her first match this season against McEachran.

“I just have to adjust to the way (McEachran) plays because she hits differently than the people I was used to practicing with over the summer,” Nikas said. “She hits with a lot of power, which a lot of girls tennis players aren’t used to.”

Krenz was able to sit and the enjoy the singles championship because West Forsyth couldn’t lose with both McEachran and Nikas playing.

“The fun thing was watching Sam and Maria compete for the final,” Krenz said. “It was like practice where they’re hitting and stuff. They have such a great spirit. They’re having a good time. The score was 6-4, I think, 6-1, so it was good.

“Maria’s a great player. Sam’s a great player. They both put up a good fight. They played their hardest.”

But no matter the results, Krenz knows that she has a supreme talent playing No. 1 singles and doubles.

“I’d seen her before,” Krenz said of McEachran before she started playing for the Titans. “We had some freshmen come in. I had another player (Chelsea Sawyer) about seven, eight years ago who was this caliber, and she lost at states in the semis. And she also came in as a freshman.

“The difference with Sam, Sam is not like the prima donna type. She’s really down to earth. She is a total team player. She’s very supportive of her teammates and friends. You know, she’s a good kid. She comes from really good parents (Gordon and Angie McEachran).”

In doubles, Do and Idulsa received a first-round bye, the defeated Reagan’s Margaret Jewell and Maya Peoples 10-1 in the quarterfinals and Davie County’s Leslie Newsom and Laura Newsom 10-2 in the semifinals. In the final, they played Reagan’s Grace Beach and Ashleigh Larson. Beach and Larson won the first set 7-6 (6), but Do and Idulsa won the second set 7-6 (3). They played a pro set in the third set and Do and Idulsa won 10-4.

“Me and my doubles partner, we’re pretty confident when we play doubles together because we’re very compatible,” Do said. “We understand each other’s techniques and don’t really need to talk over what we need to do. We just know that we’ll get it done.”

And get it done they did, even though they were down 4-1 in the second after having lost the second set.

“I was pretty nervous coming into it, in the finals match,” Idulsa said. “I kind of tied up, not a great mindset once we were like down 4-1.”

The momentum switched and Do and Idulsa came back to win the second set and pro set in the third set. After what they said was a three-hour match, neither player was surprised at winning the doubles championship.

“We kind of expected to win,” Do said. “We came to win. We weren’t really excited because we already knew we were going to win. That sounds kind of rude, but we walked off the court knowing that we had to win, and we got it done.”

Krenz was able to watch Do and Idulsa persevere through the grueling match.

“All and all, I’m just super-thrilled that they won in doubles,” Krenz said.

Do and Idulsa are undefeated this season even though they had never played with each other until the past month or so.

“I think we set up each other really well,” Idulsa said. “If one of us isn’t playing the baseline we set up the other person at the net to hit a good volley to get the point there.”

Even though there are still two weeks left in the regular season, the pressure is off for the six players from West Forsyth who clinched berths to next month’s regional.

“I would say it’s pretty big. We were all excited to participate,” McEachran said. “And the fact that most of us made it to regionals is really exciting for us.”

No matter the results in the regional, each player wants to cherish the experience.

“Me and Marion don’t think anything of it,” Do said. “We’re just hoping that we make past one round. When we think we lose we just want to get one game because it sucks losing 0 and 0. So if you have one game on the other team it’s fine.”

With all the excitement of qualifying six players for the regionals the Titans are in the thick of the race for the team championship in the conference. West Forsyth lost its lone conference match to Reynolds 5-4 on May 13. However, it bounced back to defeat Reagan 6-3 and Glenn 9-0. Reynolds is 7-1 overall and 6-0 in the conference, and Reagan is in third place at 4-2 overall and 4-2 in the conference. West Forsyth played a home match and defeated Davie County 7-2 on Monday and improved to 6-2 overall and 5-1 in the Central Piedmont 4-A. West also played at Reynolds on Wednesday in the rematch. The regular season is scheduled to end June 3 at Glenn.

“When we played Reynolds, we had seven tiebreaks in that match and we only lost 5-4,” Krenz said. “So any one of those matches could’ve gone the other way. It was very, very close.”