by Aaron Garcia
The fact that she had just won the Class 3A doubles state championship with her partner, Kindell Schmitt, didn’t dawn on Weddington’s Sarah Carroll, at least not for the first few seconds.
“We were the underdogs, so it was hard for me to get it through my head,” said Carroll.
On Oct. 30, Schmitt and Carroll beat the heavily favored Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons duo of Lauren Brooker and Caroline Smith 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 to clinch the state final at the Burlington Tennis Center.
Carroll’s surprise was genuine – not because the pair lacked the talent, but because their path to the title took some unusual turns.
For one, they weren’t doubles partners during the regular season but decided to team up after other members of the Weddington’ team entered the individual competition. But the duo had maturity and familiarity on their side.
“I think we’ve played each other enough that we know each other’s strengths,” said Schmitt, who added that Carroll’s baseline skills complemented her play at the net.
“I knew Kindell’s game pretty well, so I knew how we had to cover each other and we had to call the shots for each other,” added Carroll.
But the schedule seemed unwilling to cooperate. The Warriors had a state dual-team match at Asheville slated for Tuesday, Oct. 26, but rain delayed the match until Oct. 28. With the doubles tournament scheduled for 9 a.m. the next day, Carroll and Schmitt didn’t have much time to make the three-hour trip to Burlington.
“To their credit, they stayed focused the whole day,” Weddington coach Mike Murphy said.
Murphy admitted that advancing to the state finals was an accomplishment in itself, but the pair had bigger plans.
“They just decided they didn’t want anything but the championship,” said Murphy. “I can’t fault them for that.”
For the coach and his players, the title was the culmination of years of effort since both have worked with Murphy since they were youngsters at Weddington Swim and Racquet Club.
“As a coach, you live for those moments,” said Murphy.