by Aaron Garcia
For sisters Kalli and McKenna Karas, this year’s state championship was different.
Last season, the Karas sisters burst onto the high school tennis scene by winning the Class 2A state doubles tournament for first-year Cuthbertson High School. At the time, McKenna was a junior who had cut her varsity teeth at Weddington. Kalli was a freshman.
While they sought to defend their title in this year’s tournament, the sisters agreed to enjoy the scenery a bit more this time around.
“We knew we needed to be more relaxed and have a lot of fun because it was all about the memories this time,” McKenna said. “We were definitely going in trying to defend our title, but it’s really difficult to win something twice.”
Not hard enough, though, to keep the Karas sisters from emerging as two-time Class 2A doubles champions.
On Oct. 30, McKenna and Kalli rallied after dropping their first set to Salisbury’s Joy Loeblein and Erika Nelson to win 3-6, 6-4, 6-0 at the Cary Tennis Center, improving their season record to 19-0.
This fall, though, the duo entered the season with heightened expectations, which was obvious from the start of practice, said McKenna. As a result, the two took the season one bite at a time, focusing on each point as it came.
“If you look ahead, you’ll get overwhelmed,” said McKenna.
To cope with the pressure, the sisters developed little methods of distraction, like randomly quoting Leonardo DiCaprio movies.
“We like him a lot,” said Kalli.
“The sillier we get, the better we play,” added McKenna.
The ongoing on-the-court dialogue merely symbolized what made the sisters so effective for the past two years: unwavering sisterly support.
“(McKenna) is really supportive on the court, and she kept me calm when I’d start freaking out because we were down a few games,” said Kalli.
“If you don’t work together and support each other, if one person’s off, then obviously you’re going to lose,” said McKenna. “One person can’t win a match; it had to be both of us.”
And that’s a lesson they’ll never forget.