One of the most prolific eras in A.C. Flora Falcons girls tennis has come to an end.
With a 4-3 loss on October 27 to the two-time defending state champion Lucy Beckham Bengals in the Class 4A quarterfinals, the high school careers of Frances Smith, Siona Sturgeon, Caroline Overdyke, McLaurin Bankhead, and Abigail Walsh are over.
“This senior class has a combined total of 25 years with the ACF tennis program,” A.C. Flora head coach Amy Martin said. “They are all awesome young ladies, and each brought something special to this program. I really got to know, respect, and love each one of them, and their presence will be missed next year.”
Smith and Sturgeon were integral parts of A.C. Flora’s 2018 state championship team and have been the face of the program for several years.
“Frances and Siona have been awesome co-captains for the past two years, always providing leadership and dedication to this team,” Martin said.
Overdyke was also on that 2018 team but did not play on the ladder until the next season when she— along with Smith and Sturgeon— dominated region play and led A.C. Flora to the semifinals in 2019 and 2020. Then they advanced to last season’s state championship match but fell to Lucy Beckham.
In this year’s playoff clash, both teams brought back nearly identical ladders. Lucy Beckham returned its dominate top two in Piper Charney and Perrin Rogers.
Rogers beat Siona Sturgeon at No. 2 singles in last year’s final, but this year, Siona’s sister, Lani, got the honors. Rogers was able to take down the sophomore 6-1, 6-2 putting the Bengals up 1-0 taking the match on a let cord.
Unfortunately for Smith, she had to deal with Charney again, and the result was the same, 6-0, 6-0.
Playing No. 1 is rarely the glamour position in tennis, and oftentimes it requires a lot of altruism.
“At No. 1, Frances usually had the most pressure, but if anyone can handle pressure, it’s Frances Smith. Going up against a player like Piper, she knew she was the sacrificial lamb.”
Overdyke was the next to fall as Lucy Beckham No. 3 Lila Small won 6-1, 6-3.
As with last year’s final, sophomore Helen Smith got A.C. Flora on the board as she took down Annie Wilbourne 6-3, 6-2 at No. 4 singles.
Emily Smith lost a heartbreaker in a third set tiebreaker as a seventh grader in last year’s state championship match, but this time she dispatched Lucy Beckham No. 5 Frazier Jervey 6-2, 6-3 to draw the Falcons to within 3-2.
Emily’s twin sister, Catherine, joined forces with Siona Sturgeon at No. 2 doubles for A.C. Flora, and the pair beat Kayla Fergus and Grayson Rowley 6-2, 6-3 to tie the match at 3-3.
“Siona is such a versatile, team player and was willing to play wherever and whenever asked,” Martin said of Sturgeon. “She ‘gets’ doubles and has since as long as I can remember, and it clearly showed this year as she and Catherine went undefeated this season.”
Unfortunately, for the Falcons, Charney and Rogers were proving too much for Frances Smith and Lani Sturgeon at No. 1 doubles at nearly the same time Siona and Catherine were wrapping up. The Lucy Beckham duo won 6- 0, 6-0 giving the Bengals the 4-3 victory to advance them to the Lower State championship match where they fell 4-2 to Hilton Head Island.
Martin was unable to attend the quarterfinal match due to a family commitment.
“…Was so proud of the girls,”she said. “They gave it their all, and then some, and held their heads high with true Falcon pride. I was so sorry not to be there in person, but with Coach Chris Smith, things were in good hands. We all wanted revenge from last year, but their top player in the lineup—it was just a bit too much.”
…Maybe this year, but the Falcons will be back.
“The future looks very bright with Helen Miller, Lani Sturgeon, and the twins, Emily and Catherine Smith, as well as many other underclassmen in the tennis program,” Martin said. “With almost 50 girls on three teams, the tennis program here can continue to have the depth it needs for many years to come.”