Back to her roots

Topsail High School tennis player Danielle McGee competes against Warren High School during the first round of the state playoffs at Topsail High School in Hampstead on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2011. (Photo by Matt Born)

It’s been almost three years since Danielle McGee played in the state individual tennis championships, but the Topsail senior ace is back in the mix this weekend, hoping to get back to her roots with another state title to bookend her high school career.

McGee burst onto the scene as a freshman for Topsail in 2008, blazing through the regular season and winning the class 1A state title.

Following her individual win in 2008, McGee played for Topsail in the regular season, but abstained from the state individual championships for the following two years, electing instead to play in national tournaments with the Landfall ACE Academy team, taking top-five national finishes both years

“We made it to nationals two years in a row after that,” McGee said. “I figured that nationals was a bigger tournament than states with more college coaches there, so I did that.”

But in 2011, with many of her club teammates graduated, McGee decided to give the NCHSAA state tournament one more crack.

“I wanted to represent my school and go out with a bang, and win another state championship hopefully,” McGee said.

State title or no, McGee has already had quite the high school career. In four years, she’s undefeated in the East Central Conference, and has collected three straight Player of the Year honors for the conference.

“I think it’s a personal goal for herself and for her family to get back on the state level and see what she can do on her own as opposed to with a team,” Topsail coach Craig Mann said. “

McGee has never been afraid to be outspoken - on Wednesday, her voice was still cracking from screaming during her regional match almost a week previous. McGee said she’s embraced being an emotional player and breaking the normally reserved mold of the tennis world.

“She’s a very emotional player,” Mann said. “Sometimes that pays dividends and sometimes that causes self-destruction.”

McGee saw a little bit of the latter in the regional championships. In the final match to determine seeding, McGee faced off against Swansboro’s Morgan Sheehan, a player McGee had already defeated handily in conference play. But Sheehan was able to frustrate McGee and come away with the surprise win, meaning McGee had to settle for the No. 2 seed out of the east and a more challenging road through the state championships.

McGee said her abdominal strain and the cagey play from Sheehan both contributed to the loss, but said she’d love a chance to get a rematch in the state finals.

“She won the battle, but I feel like I’m going to win the war,” McGee said. “I’m going to stick it to her and try my hardest.”

And McGee still holds the experience of her freshman year title run in her head. As a person who grew up playing tennis on all levels, McGee assumed the state championship was just another tournament, only to find a raucous and intense atmosphere.

“I didn’t think to bring any of my family,” McGee said. “I had no idea that states was a big deal. I was so ignorant of the fact that this is a state tournament.”

While McGee did win in 2008, it was only after dropping her first set of the day. This time around, she knows what to expect.

“I just try to play as smart as I can, and take it one point at a time,” McGee said. “If I over-think it and think 'oh I’ve won before' that’s more pressure on me.”


Local players in state tennis tournaments this weekend:

NCHSAA - tournament begins 9 a.m. Friday

Class 4A  (At Millbrook Exchange Tennis Park)

No. 1 McKayla Zupan (Hoggard) vs. No. 4 Lauren McCroquodale (Millbrook)

No. 1 Anna Hodges/Caitlin Neal (Hoggard) vs. No. 4 Wang/Srinivas (Green Hope)

Class 3A (Burlington Tennis Center)

No. 1 Summer Phillips (South Brunswick) vs. No. 4 Erin Meyer, Cardinal Gibbons

Class 2A (Cary Tennis Park)

No. 2 Danielle McGee (Topsail), vs. No. 3 Emma Newberg (Cedar Ridge)



Cape Fear Academy: NCISAA class 2A state championships, Althea Gibson Tennis Complex, Friday and Saturday


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