YOUTH TENNIS

Palmetto Championships: Carter eyes record-book finish

UNC-bound star in search of 16th Palmetto title

Special to The StateMay 27, 2013 

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FILE: Columbia's Hayley Carter practices in August 2011 at the Smith Stearns Tennis Academy in Sea Pines on Hilton Head Island.

SARAH WELLIVER — The (Hilton Head) Island Packet

— In the final Palmetto Championships of her junior tennis career, Hayley Carter wants it all.

Advancing to the final of the girls’ 18s singles, top-seeded Carter is one step closer to achieving a childhood dream.

This year, if she claims both the singles and doubles titles, she’ll have 16 total, the most Palmetto championships held by an individual in the 57-year history of the tournament.

“It’s a little bit of pressure, but it’s also exciting,” the North Carolina signee said. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl looking at the record books. Hopefully, I can make it happen this year.”

Carter, who is from Columbia and trains on Hilton Head Island, added a couple of titles in 2012 to claim the girls’ record (seven singles and seven doubles titles).

Charleston’s Ryan Young, who ended his junior career in 2003 with 15 Palmetto titles, is the current record holder.

With a 6-0, 6-2 victory against No. 3 seed Rachel McNeely of Westminster in her singles semifinal Sunday, Carter secured a shot at tying or surpassing the record. McNeely was the 2012 Palmetto 16s champion.

On Monday, she’ll face her doubles partner, Ansley Speaks of Simpsonville, for the championship at the Belton Tennis Center.

The two are a relatively new doubles team, but they have squared off many times, including last year in the 18s final.

“It’s always a little strange playing your doubles partner, but we’re used to playing each other,” Carter said.

Speaks, the No. 2 seed in the 18s singles, is a Mauldin High standout who will play her collegiate tennis at Furman. She outlasted No. 4 seed Olivia Lucas of Greenville, 6-3, 6-4, to reach the final.

Carter said she has worked on making her game “bigger” in preparation for playing collegiately at UNC and, she hopes, in the pros.

In other matches Sunday, two players from Fort Mill captured the first championships awarded in the 2013 Palmetto.

Top seed Davis Phillips beat No. 2 seed Robbie Young of Greenville, 4-1, 5-3, for the boys’ championship.

Young’s twin sister, Sophie Young, the No. 1 seed, lost to unseeded Suzette Smit, 4-0, 4-1, in the other 10s singles final.

The 10s singles titles were decided in matches at the Anderson Sports Center.

The Palmetto Championships presented by Chick-fil-A of Anderson has drawn more than 400 players to the courts of Belton and Anderson over Memorial Day weekend.

The tournament, which concludes Tuesday, is the national qualifying tournament for South Carolina juniors. The best players from the Palmetto advance to the Southern Closed Championships in June.

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