by Aaron Garcia
It didn’t take long for Jasmine Gabriel to announce her presence in the high school tennis ranks – not just in Union County, but in the entire state. Gabriel, a Weddington High School freshman, started her career with wins over the No. 1 players from Charlotte Latin and Charlotte Providence, both highly regarded programs in the area.
“That’s kind of when I knew what I had,” said Weddington girls tennis coach Mike Murphy.
As it turns out, Murphy also had Union County Weekly’s 2010 Girls Tennis Player of the Year.
Gabriel continued to impress all season as she rolled to a 17-5 record on the court, helping the Warriors to a Southern Carolina 3A/4A conference title. But her strong season also included a deep run into the postseason. Despite being just a freshman, Gabriel advanced all the way to the Class 3A state semifinals.
It was the top individual performance by a Union County girls tennis player during the 2010 season.
“It was awesome,” said Gabriel when asked how her first season of varsity tennis went. “Since it was my freshman year, I think I did pretty well. It was a lot of fun.”
Gabriel stepped in and replaced Meredith Branham, the Warriors’ No. 1 player from a year ago. For many freshmen, it would have been an unenviable task, but Gabriel’s coach said the youngster handled the pressure well.
“She was fine with it,” Murphy said. “She had the game. She’s a top-10-in-the-state player, so she slid right in without any problem.
“I knew going (into the season that) we’d stand a chance at No. 1 in nearly every match, and that’s pretty much the way it played out.”
Gabriel – whose elder sister, Gabby, was a private-school all-state player at Charlotte Providence Day the past two seasons – displayed athleticism, proving that she could cover the court from sideline to sideline. Being left-handed with strong forehand and backhand shots made it difficult for opponents to find weaknesses, Murphy said. But it was Gabriel’s precocious level of strength that truly set her apart.
“She tries to hit through people,” the coach noted. “She’s not going to sit back there and hit 40- or 50-shot rallies.”
Being just a freshman, Gabriel said there are many things to improve in the future, namely her mind-set during matches.
“I feel like I’m so nonchalant all the time,” she said. “I need to change that.”
Murphy would like to see Gabriel become more consistent as her career moves forward.
“That’s one of those things that comes with more maturity,” he said.
It’s a fair assessment. Fortunately, Gabriel has plenty of time to improve.