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BHS tennis repeats

WINDSOR – To date, 2006 had been the most successful season in Bertie High School tennis history. Until now.

The Lady Falcons won the 3-A division of the Northeastern Coastal Conference and advanced to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association state playoffs a season ago.

It was the first tennis title of any kind ever won at the Windsor-based school.

This season was to be a rebuilding year. With four of last year’s starters continuing their education at the college level, the Lady Falcons had to seemingly start from scratch.

Little did Head Coach Jackie Copeland know how quickly the team would rebuild.

“At the beginning of the year, I said we needed to work on improving,” Copeland said. “We did that and that’s why we are here.”

The Lady Falcons swept 3-A division foes Currituck and Hertford County to claim their second straight division championship. They also knocked off 2-A rival First Flight in league action.

“This season was definitely different than last year,” Copeland said. “Because we worked hard and began to improve quickly, we were able to win the 3-A division again.”

Senior Holly Cowand, who became the Lady Falcons’ top-seeded player midway through 2006, said she was proud of both championships won by the Lady Falcons.

“To be part of the only two teams that have won the 3-A division in a phenomenal feeling,” Cowand said. “I am very proud to be on the team.”

Fellow senior Magan Daniels said she was also “proud” to be part of back-to-back championship teams and credited Copeland’s coaching ability for the titles.

Junior Kaitlyn Dunlow added, “It feels great because we have made history the last two years. We owe our coach a lot of credit because she pushed us to do all that we could do.”

Second seed Courtney Dunlow agreed.

“To be the only ones to win division championships at Bertie High School feels great,” Dunlow said. “I’m proud to have been in the top six both years and to know that I helped get us there.”

The Lady Falcon tennis team had six regular starters in singles competition.

Cowand anchored the team at number one and posted a solid 9-3 record at that lofty spot.

She said her favorite match of the year came when she defeated Jessica Medinger form Currituck.

“Jessica was extremely good and we played for three and one-half to four hours non-stop,” Cowand said.

Dunlow played at the number two seed in singles competition and said her best match came when she defeated her foe form Currituck.

“Our game at home with Currituck was my proudest victory,” she said. “I was nervous before the game, but I wanted it badly so I could say I won against Currituck.”

Daniels was the team’s number three competitor and also cited her match with Currituck as the biggest contest of the year.

“That is one of our biggest matches in the conference and winning it helped us capture the 3-A division again,” Daniels said.

The fourth seed for the Lady Falcons is sophomore Jody Mizelle while Kaitlyn Dunlow and Chelsea Dunlow switched back and forth between number five and six.

Both Dunlows said they were pleased with a doubles match in which they beat First Flight in the deciding match of the contest.

No less than four of those players were making their debut in the starting lineup for Bertie because of the number of players who graduated from last year’s team.

Chelsea Dunlow said this championship was a little more special to her.

“This one is more special because we proved that even though we lost all of those seniors, we could still come out on top,” she said. “I was more a part of this one because I played in every game.”

Senior Erica Bazemore, who joined the team this season, said she was proud to be part of the second one.

“Being a part of a championship team feels like we as a whole have made a major accomplishment not only for ourselves, but for the entire school,” Bazemore said.

Cowand, who was a major part in both championships, said this one was a little more special to her.

“This year means more because most people thought we weren’t going to accomplish much, but we proved them wrong about a lot of stuff,” Cowand said.

For her part, Daniels said it was a special season because it was her senior season.

“I’m a senior, so this one is more important,” Daniels said. “There will be no more high school sports for me.”

The key to this year’s repeat was the hard work and the improvement in the team’s serving, according to Copeland.

“I think our serves have gotten 70 percent better and that has helped us get a higher percentage of aces,” the coach stated. “Our knowledge of the game was also a big key because I think having players who participated in exhibition matches last year helped us to know what we needed to work on.”

Copeland admitted surprise and pride in her team’s accomplishment.

“I’m surprised in a positive way because I had girls to step up quickly,” she said. “I knew they could do it, but didn’t know how the end of the season would turn out.

“I’m excited for my players because with us losing four seniors, they had to work to get what they got,” Copeland added.

Bertie High School Athletic Director Marvin Rankins said he was proud of what his team did to recapture the title.

“Once again, I’m very proud because they worked hard,” Rankins said. “Bertie tennis is on the right track and we want to keep them there.

“Those kids and their coach worked hard and just did an outstanding job,” he added.

The Falcons participated in the regional playoffs on Monday and will go to Edenton for the Northeastern Coastal Conference tournament on Wednesday.