All-Area Girls Tennis

Hoggard's McKayla Zupan capped off one of the most decorated tennis careers in New Hanover County history the same way she began it. (Photo by Photo by Paul Stephen)

Fourth time's the charm, right?

At least, that's McKayla Zupan's understanding when it comes to winning the StarNews' Player of the Year award for girls tennis.

By winning the award one last time as a senior at Hoggard, Zupan capped off one of the most decorated tennis careers in New Hanover County history the same way she began it.

"It's kind of always something I look forward to," Zupan said of winning the award for the fourth consecutive year. "It probably would be a disappointment if I didn't win it just because I had, in my mind, this thought of, ‘Oh, I'm going to get the StarNews' Player of the Year.' It's always exciting to have an article and picture in the paper."

Zupan has been a dominant force locally since first stepping on the court her freshman year.

"I think, obviously her year was fairly successful," said Hoggard coach Michael Bowen. "She was able to get Player of the Year, finished her career with four trips to the state championships. Two years, she was most valuable player. She's had a terrific season, and a terrific career."

After a junior year that saw Zupan have a clean sweep through singles matches in the regular season and finish as state runner-up, Zupan seemed to prime to end her career on a dominating note.

However, in the first weekend of the season, Zupan and Hoggard were left in an unfamiliar position after falling to New Hanover.

"You never like to lose to your top rival," Zupan said. "In my mind, it sucked, but it just made us think, ‘OK, we have to work that much harder now to beat them next time. We cannot let that happen again.'"

Zupan accomplished that and much more. 

The Vikings went on to beat New Hanover in their other two matchups this season and took a second consecutive Mideastern Conference title.

"It was definitely cool to be back on track again," Zupan said, adding. "I had confidence that our team was all good enough to do it again. So that was cool to end my senior season that way."

She also was able to claim her third Class 4A East Regional title in three tries before falling in the second round of the state tournament, ending with a career singles record of 59-9.

"Overall, I think my career went really well," said Zupan, currently the 10th ranked player in North Carolina. "The statistics, I actually looked at them with the wins and losses. It's pretty cool to see so many wins versus not a lot of losses. Just to see that, it's kind of rewarding."

Now Zupan has started to prepare for life as a Division I athlete, having recently signed a letter of intent at Appalachian State University next fall.

Ranked No. 10 in the state by the USTA, Zupan plans to continue participating in its tournaments throughout the spring before beginning ITA events, which are more college-oriented, during the summer.

According to Bowen, however, Zupan already possesses all the intangibles she needs to succeed.

"Being a captain of the team, and also being a quality Division I player, every day she brings to the practices a workmanship that is challenging," Bowen said. "She challenges all the other girls to step up and bring their ‘A' game to practice every day. She leads by example and that's important."



All-Area Girls Tennis

First Team

McKayla Zupan, Sr., Hoggard (Player of the Year): Mideastern Conference singles champion, made Class 4A state quarterfinals, signed with Appalachian State.

Campbell Cooper, Sr., New Hanover: 13-4 record in singles play, qualified for 4A state singles championship.

Tala Gourdarzi, Sr., Cape Fear Academy: CFIC Player of the Year

Megan Hampton, Sr., Topsail: Won 2A East singles title and advanced to second round of 2A state tournament

Anna Hodges, Sr., Hoggard: Played No. 2 singles for Hoggard and helped lead the Vikings to a second straight conference title.

Sophie Kot, Sr., New Hanover: Finished 10-5 at No. 3 singles and 6-4 in doubles.

Honorable Mention

Hoggard: Ellie Scialabba. Laney: Louisa Cone, Erin Nesselroade. New Hanover: Kate Leder. 

All-Conference Teams

Mideastern Conference

First Team: Ashley–Madaline Hatcher, Heather Parra; Hoggard–Anna Hodges, Melanie Post, Ellie Scialabba, McKayla Zupan; Laney–Channing Bugbee, Louisa Cone, Hayley Meier; New Hanover–Campbell Cooper, Sophie Kot, Kate Leder; New Bern–Katherine Jones; Rose–Emily Clark, Gabby Khoury, Cameron Teaney. 

Second Team: Rose–Sarah Bailey, Liza Quattlebaum; New Hanover–Molly Gibson, Lucy Watkins; Hoggard–Lydia Hartley, Brianna Smith; Laney–Addie Humphrey, Erin Nesselroade; New Bern–Alex Junak; Ashley–Brianna Rogers.

Player of the Year: McKayla Zupan, Hoggard. Coach of the Year: Michael Bowen, Hoggard. Sportmanship: Hoggard.

Waccamaw Conference

First Team: East Bladen–Carolina Sarmiento; South Brunswick–Lilly Michelakis, Brooke Munroe. South Columbus–Jaclyn Koonce, Anna Naughton; West Bladen–Erica Tanner, Hannah Dowless; West Brunswick–Penny Watts. Whiteville–Carly High, Maleah Murray, Olivia Butler.

Second Team: East Bladen–Gabrielle Monroe; South Brunswick–Morgan Gilbert, Kacey Martin; South Columbus–Abby Leonard, Kendra Taylor; West Bladen–Lexi Storms, Nicole Nye; West Brunswick–Anna James; Whiteville–Kianna Washington, Margaret High, Madison Hege.

East Central Conference

Clinton–Caroline Barwick; Croatan–Brittany Russ, Miranda Ameen); East Duplin–Rebekah Byrant, Savannah Pierson; Northside–Loren Mancha; Richlands–Kalina Taylor; Swansboro–Morgan Sheehan, Emily Scarborough, Katie Yingling; Topsail–Megan Hampton, Franca Buffalino, Caroline Tobin, Lauren Smith.

Cape Fear Independent Conference

Cape Fear Academy: Tala Goudarzi (CFIC Player of the Year), Brooke Graham, Adelyn Massey, Lila Das