On a breezy and cool day in Burlington last November, Panther Creek made school history.
In their eighth year of existence, the Catamounts had their first N.C. High School Athletic Association state championship, beating Ardrey Kell 5-1 on Nov. 2.
It came down to No. 3 singles player Orla LaBiche’s match. Down 5-3 in the first set, LaBiche rallied to win 7-6, 6-3.
“I knew I had the ability to win, but I had to put it all together,” LaBiche said. “Little things bothered me (at first), but I’m not going to win like that. So I needed to calm myself down.”
Sophomore Sammi Smith put Panther Creek up first, winning No. 2 singles 6-1, 6-1. Quickly following her was classmate Jordan Strickland at No. 3 (6-0, 6-1).
It took a little time, but No. 1 Megan Smith pulled out the Catamounts’ third win of the match. After winning the first set 6-2, Megan Smith fell in the second set 3-6. She won the short tiebreaker set 10-7 to claim the win.
“My wrist was really bothering me in the second set,” Megan Smith said. “And then in the tiebreaker I pushed through and did what I needed to do to win.”
When Megan Smith walked to the other courts, she didn’t have to wait long to see freshman Aishani Tingare pull out a 6-2, 6-1 win.
Panther Creek led 4-1 after Ardrey Kell took a 6-1, 7-5 win against Panther Creek No. 6 singles player Loren Kim.
Panther Creek went 21-1 and could get used to its perch at the top of the state, with Megan Smith the only senior. The Catamounts upended Broughton in the third round of the playoffs to prevent the Caps from reaching the 4A East final for the first time in at least 18 years.