Emily Ruckno walked out of the Florence Tennis Center complex on Saturday morning with the brightest smile across her face. After three years of hard work, the dream ending to her Hilton Head High career had become reality.
Powered by Ruckno’s dominance at first singles and doubles, the Seahawks defeated Greenville 5-2 on Saturday to capture the SCHSL 4A girls tennis state championship. It’s their first title since 2019, and it might be the sweetest one yet for Ruckno and head coach Jennifer Weitekamper.
“It means a lot to me as a senior and team captain,” Ruckno said. “The girls and I all put in a lot of work this season to win and I’m so proud of them.”
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The Seahawks raced out in front with a pair of quick wins at second and third singles, as Hailey Poplin dominated Carlie Belck 6-0, 6-1 while KS Kersey blanked Lily Sommer 6-0, 6-0. Ruckno followed behind with a perfect victory of her own, earning a 6-0, 6-0 decision over Jayne Womack.
Kourtny Kosto fell short to Mary Wesley Few 6-3, 6-3 at 4th singles, opening the door to a potential Greenville comeback with two matches going to tiebreakers. But that door was shut quickly. With a chance to be the heroes on the biggest stage, the Seahawks’ second doubles team of Jessica Staigar and Hailey Cruz finished the job. After dropping the first set, Staigar and Cruz took the second and dominated the third-set tiebreaker 10-1 to officially clinch the Class 4A crown. Ruckno and Poplin then capped off their sensational seasons on the doubles court, downing Womack and Belck 8-1.
Hilton Head High finishes its state championship season with a record of 17-1, including a three-match sweep over 2020 and 2021 Class 4A champ Lucy Beckham.
Ruckno and Poplin will look to add more hardware to their mantles in the SCHSL 4A/5A state singles tournament on Monday and Tuesday.
By Wes Kerr
1. Emily Ruckno def. Jayne Womack 6-0, 6-0
2. Hailey Poplin def. Carlie Belck 6-0, 6-1
3. KS Kersey def. Lily Sommer 6-0, 6-0
4. Mary Wesley Few def. Kourtny Kosto 6-3, 6-3
5. Laney Palmer def. Alyssa Ruckno 7-5, 3-6, (10-8)
1. Ruckno/Poplin def. Womack/Belck 8-1
2. Jessica Staigar/Hailey Cruz def. Rollins Beck/Ellison Brey 4-6, 6-3, (10-1)
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