Freshman’s work ethic helps her win state title

By Sergio Tovar

Hannah Archer may be only a freshman, but she’s already playing beyond her years.

The 14-year-old Lake Norman Charter tennis player had a memorable start to her high school career, winning the 1A singles championship last month to cap off a 17-3 freshman campaign.

“It was really exciting,” she said. “It was a really big deal, and I’m just really happy.”

Archer, who also won the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A singles title and the 1A West regional title, admits that she was shocked about how well her season went.

Knights’ coach Chris Brycki wasn’t.

Brycki was impressed with Archer’s skill, and, most of all, her work ethic, when she joined the team.

“She always was the first girl on the court and practiced, practiced all the time,” he said.

Archer, who has been playing tennis since she was 10, said that she often spends 15 hours a week working on her game – including her footwork, agility and endurance – aside from playing matches and U.S. Tennis Association tournaments on weekends.

“Some girls play seven, eight years and play the same amount of tennis that she does, and they’re not as good as she is,” said Brycki. “She’s talented. She can be really good.”

Archer’s dedication translates onto her playing style.

“I try and work on all parts of the court and be an overall, well-rounded player so I can be good at the net but also have good defense,” she said.

Brycki said Archer’s consistency was big this year. He added that the freshman has a strong forehand and backhand, but she doesn’t often overpower her opponents.

Archer had to play last year’s 1A state champion, Mount Airy’s Jordan Jackson, for the championship.

Having defeated Jackson twice this season before the match, for the regional championship and in the second round of the dual playoffs, Archer had the momentum going into their third meeting.

“We had gotten used to each other, but she’s a really good player,” said Archer. “I knew going into the match that it was going to be a fight. I just focused and played aggressively. I knew that was probably the only way to beat her.”

The freshman’s tactic paid off, as she got off to an impressive start and beat Jackson 6-0 in the first set of the championship.

Down 3-4 in the following set, Archer recovered to win three straight games and defeat Jackson 6-4 to win the state title.

Archer lost only seven games in the six sets she played at the state tournament. She won three of those sets 6-0.

“She never loses focus,” said Brycki. “No matter what the score is, she keeps playing. That’s what I love to see.”

The Knights are graduating three players in their top six, but Brycki said that if the other returners step up, next year’s Lake Norman Charter squad could be strong as this year’s team, which went 11-0 in the regular season to win an SPC title.

Junior Sravya Uppalapati, whom Archer beat for the team’s top spot after being the No. 1 player last year, should boost the team after dropping only two matches this season. Uppalapati should continue to push Archer for the top spot, which Brycki said would help the players and the team.

“Competition is very good,” he said.

With three years of high school left, Archer could have a bright future. Lake Norman Charter moves up to 2A and into a split 2A/3A league with Gaston County schools next year, which means Archer will have tougher competition if she wants to compete for another state title.

“I look forward to that challenge,” said Archer. “Hopefully, I’ll do well again next year.”

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