The Chatham Central women’s tennis team is on a roll. Having won six straight matches, including four against the Mid-Carolina 1A/2A conference, the Bears look primed for a run at regionals this …
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The Chatham Central women’s tennis team is on a roll. Having won six straight matches, including four against the Mid-Carolina 1A/2A conference, the Bears look primed for a run at regionals this year. Chatham Central’s top three players — junior No. 1 Livvy Brooks (6-0), junior No. 2 Ellie Phillips (5-1) and sophomore No. 3 Rachel Albright (5-1) — are a major reason for the team’s on-court success this season, along with the doubles duos of Brooks & Phillips (5-1), Albright & junior Jaylee Williams (5-1) and sophomores Lauren Caviness & Samantha Scott (4-2).
With Chatham Central’s season in full swing, the News + Record sat down with 10th-year head coach Heather Brooks to discuss her team’s early season success, her take on the Bears’ new conference and her high expectations for postseason play. Conversation has been edited for clarity.
HEATHER BROOKS: I’m excited. They’re on the pathway to possibly being conference champions. We’re undefeated in conference, our only loss this season was to Chatham Charter and we play them again. I just feel like we can only keep going up and getting better at this point in the season. We lost two seniors last year, so my team is very young. I only have three upperclassmen; everybody else are underclassmen and, of those, most of them started playing tennis last April when girls’ tennis came around. They don’t even have a year of experience yet. So to watch them play and give it their all is amazing.
The most improved, it’s hard, that one’s a hard one. Lauren Caviness is my No. 6 and she’s playing amazing and strives. She comes to practice and she’s the first one there and she’s hitting on the back board. She’s really diligent about trying to become better. And then also Rachel Albright; she started in April and she’s playing No. 3 this year and she’s killing it. She works. She works on Saturdays, she goes and plays. And then there’s Jaylee Williams, she’s No. 4 and she was doing golf and tennis, but she puts in the time and she’s improving also.
They’re all so coachable. Our No. 5, Samantha Scott, she came from Chatham Charter, so she had some middle school tennis, which is very unusual. She’s just perfecting her game and her strokes. And then the Nos. 1 and 2, Livvy Brooks and Ellie Phillips, they love the game and they have their goals to try to make it to regionals this year, that’s a goal they started off with during their freshman year, and they’re now playing No. 1 doubles and are a superb doubles team.
They both will dig to come out on top. For instance, Ellie was down at Chatham Charter. She lost a set, won a set and went to a third-set tiebreaker and came out and won. She really had to dig to win.
Livvy is undefeated, but, for instance, at Southwest Randolph, we played a 10-game pro-set and she was down, 8-2, but she just found her inner drive and came back and won, 10-8, so she won the next eight games. I don’t think either one of them are thinking about what the girls did last year or how good they were, I think they’re just focused on themselves, which is great because sometimes it’s hard to step into that spot, especially as a junior stepping into Nos. 1 and 2 and having to play seniors. They’ve both been remarkable.
I really expect to make it to the dual-team playoffs this year. Going into the East, the East is always a little bit weaker, so I feel like we could go a few rounds into it. I’d be ecstatic if we made it to regionals, but I also like to keep it real. So a couple of rounds in would be good. I really feel like Livvy and Ellie will go to regionals in doubles. Their goal is to make regionals and states this year.
My goal was to go undefeated in the conference, so as of now we’ve played everybody and we’re undefeated. Our biggest competition has been Seaforth and we play them again in two weeks. I would really love to get a win against Chatham Charter on Tuesday. That’s our one loss and that’s Livvy and Ellie’s one loss in doubles and, they’ll tell you, they lost because they were just gassed from just playing it all out in singles. It was the first match of the season, so if they get the win next, they’ve improved. (Editor’s Note: Results of the Chatham Charter-Chatham Central tennis match were not available by press time, check our website for updated scores.)
Seaforth came into the conference only having freshmen and sophomores and next year, I have a feeling they will be a big powerhouse in tennis. The rest of our conference is a little weak this year, which is really disappointing to me because we’re in a 1A/2A split and you would hope that the 2As would be pretty good, but it is what it is. I’ve always said that 2As have been weaker than 1As in tennis. So in the new conference, it’s kind of sad when you have two schools that don’t even have a team, so that makes it a little difficult and that’s why I go outside of those matches with Chatham Charter and Southwest Randolph so that the girls can get some good competition.
It’s a good rivalry. The girls, they’re friends outside of the court. They go out on the court and both teams play probably the best tennis they’ve played all year and they have fun with it. Kelly (Eldridge) is a great coach and you always know you’re going to go there and have good sportsmanship. The parents for both teams cheer for both team’s girls. It’s just a great environment, especially for high school tennis, when sometimes you don’t have that going to other schools. Right. Last year, we split with them, we lost once and won once, and I’m hoping for the same this year. They’ve got a really strong team.
By Wednesday night, after three matches in a row, they will be all exhausted. It’s hard. It’s hard for them, especially if it’s hot, and it’s supposed to get hot again this week, so we have to do what we can and just hopefully condition and hydrate, be ready. But come Wednesday night, they will all be exhausted.
One challenge of the quick turnaround is a lot of the girls don’t feel like they ever had any downtime. It’s good to take a little break, but then on the other hand, they also didn’t have their offseason time to work and get better and improve. Really they only had about five weeks of the offseason before the first day of practice, so by the time you do try to rest a little bit, they didn’t have time to go do extra tournaments or play on the side or all the stuff you would normally do during the offseason, which is normally from November to August.
First of all, just getting to play a full season, that makes me so excited because last year I really felt like the girls just didn’t have enough attention with the boys overlapping by three weeks. It was hard. They didn’t get the matches in the beginning and so now they have a full season. I’m looking forward to hopefully sending three players to regionals and us going to the dual-team playoffs.
I think it would be amazing for such a young team to go dual teams. And we should actually have a home bid the first round because we should finish No. 1 for the 1A part of the conference, so that would also be nice because, in the past, we have not been lucky enough to have the home bid. Two years ago, when we were regional runners-up, we didn’t play single dual-team match at home in the tournament, so it’d be nice to actually be able to play at home.