Central, Seaforth hope to build on successful 2022 seasons

The Bears reached the 1A title match, while Seaforth went 11-2 overall.


BEAR CREEK — Last fall proved to be a banner season for Chatham County’s girls’ tennis teams.


At the 1A level, Chatham Central made it all the way to the state tournament finals before losing to Mount Airy. Seaforth earned the top spot in the 2A east region, but the Hawks fell to Triangle Math & Science in the first round of the playoffs.


On the individual level, Chatham Central seniors Olivia Brooks and Ellie Phillips won the 1A doubles state championship, rallying from a first-set deficit to defeat Bishop McGuinness’ Isabella Ross and Nina Holton. It was the second straight season the pair played in the 1A finals.


Speaking with the News & Record earlier this week, Chatham Central head coach Heather Brooks said she’s excited for the upcoming season, but knows how hard it will be to replace the graduating duo, as well as fellow senior Jaylee Williams.


“(Olivia and Ellie) were strong leaders,” she said. “They had played the top two positions for two years, so all the underclassmen looked up to them. They're going to be hard shoes to fill in terms of leadership. I wouldn't be surprised if they were asked to come hit with some of (our current players) at practice to help them out during the preseason."


Brooks said she expects rising seniors Lauren Caviness, Rachel Albright and Hallie Webster to pick up some of the slack in the leadership department. While they might not be as strong at the top as last season, the Bears hope they can put together a more balanced lineup this upcoming season.


A few other players expected to help in that regard are rising senior Emma Townsend and rising junior Carlee Callahan.


“(Carlee)’s like a little fireball,” Brooks said. “I have a feeling she's going to step up. Last year was her first year playing, so she was a little timid and nervous. But I really feel like this year she's going to emerge. She really works hard and wants to do the best that she can."


At Seaforth, the Hawks will bring back their entire roster of players after competing in just their second-ever varsity season in 2022. 


The top returning singles player for Seaforth will be rising senior Evelyn Atkins, who went 7-4 overall at the No. 1 spot last season. Also coming back are rising senior Lauren Keeley (7-1 singles) and rising juniors Bailey Shadoan (8-4 singles) and Lillian McFall (9-2 singles).


In doubles play, the top returning pair is Keeley and rising junior Makenzy Lehew, who were 8-1 between the No. 1 and No. 2 doubles spots last fall.


Chatham Central and Seaforth will compete in the same conference in 2023 along with other county programs Jordan-Matthews and Northwood. The Chargers join the fray in the Mid-Carolina Conference this season after spending the past several years competing at the 3A level.


Brooks said she welcomes all the tough competition in the area, as she believes it will only help her team going forward.


"I would much rather play the harder competition than the weaker,” Brooks said. “The harder competition only makes you stronger. It makes the girls play harder and develop their skills more. That's one reason Olivia and Ellie were so good. They would play tournaments on the weekends and play tougher competition. I'd rather that happen than us going into the playoffs against a tough team and not knowing how to react."