NEWTON — Fred T. Foard sophomore girls tennis player Alexis Wolgemuth has done a lot of winning in her two seasons at the high school level. A year after capturing a 2A state doubles title alongside 2019 Foard graduate Emily Campbell, she added another 2A state doubles championship with senior Hannah Cummings as her partner this fall.
Wolgemuth, a two-time Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference Player of the Year, began participating in tennis when she was 5 years old. She learned the sport from longtime Hickory Foundation YMCA instructor Kathy Kim and has played ever since.
“It’s a great sport to play,” said Wolgemuth. “You can play it at all ages, doesn’t matter if you’re five or 70, you can get out on the court and hit a ball. It’s a lot of fun.”
Cummings took up tennis as a freshman, developing her game under former Tigers head coach Ryan Gettys. She has consistently improved throughout her high school career, which culminated in winning a state title with Wolgemuth under first-year head coach Shawn Miller on Oct. 26 in Cary.
“I’d say it’s one of the sports that it’s all on you or you and your partner, so you really have to work towards it to get better, but it’s a lot of fun while you’re working,” said Cummings. “It doesn’t feel like work, it feels like fun. It’s probably one of the most fun sports that you can do.”
Despite being two years younger than Cummings, Wolgemuth’s experience at state last year was vital to the pair winning it all this season. It helped Wolgemuth to not be as nervous while also benefiting her partner.
“I knew what to expect coming into it,” said Wolgemuth. “I had an idea of the competition, what to prepare for and what needed to be done to win state.”
“I’d definitely say Alexis is better than me and she’s more experienced than me,” added Cummings. “But she was just really awesome in preparing me and telling me what to expect and just helping me out.”
The duo won all of their matches together in 2019, while Wolgemuth was also undefeated at No. 1 singles. Meanwhile, Cummings lost just twice at No. 3 singles for a Foard squad that finished 15-1 overall and 7-0 in conference play, losing to Lake Norman Charter in the second round of the 2A dual state playoffs.
“It was obviously great, it was a great group of girls to be around,” said Miller, who took over as head coach this year after previously serving as the Tigers’ wrestling coach. “They were very successful, and I was in the very advantageous position to inherit something that was already pretty good. And now I guess the real challenge for me is making sure we keep it that way. I guess the hard work really starts now.
“It’s just a great group of girls. I’m very thankful,” he continued. “It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make because if I was gonna do this I was gonna give up wrestling, and I had done wrestling for years and years and years and I still love it. But it certainly was the right decision. I firmly believe it was the right decision, it was so enjoyable.”
Wolgemuth and Cummings began state tournament play on Oct. 25 with wins over North Johnston’s Samantha Davis and Arial Pearce (6-1, 6-0) and Salisbury’s Meredith Burton and Margaret Thurman (6-0, 6-0). They knocked off Oak Grove’s Marlie Stephenson and Chloe Bethea (6-2, 6-1) in the semifinals on Oct. 26 before defeating Hendersonville’s Olivia Pursely and Anna Trace (6-0, 6-3) in the championship match.
“There was always this level of focus. … It’s state, you have to be ready,” said Wolgemuth. “Not that there isn’t goofing off in between matches, but there’s just that feeling that you know this is the big thing, so to speak. You know it’s there and you have to always have it in the back of your head those two days.”
“I tried to think about it just like any other match,” added Cummings. “If I went into it thinking, ‘oh this is it, this is the big state tournament,’ I’d get almost too focused. So there is an element of just having fun with a really great doubles partner. Just getting every ball over the net was really my main focus.”
While Cummings has completed her career at Foard, Wolgemuth has high hopes for her final two seasons with the Tigers. Both would encourage others to give the sport a try.
“I would love to keep working and try again for another state championship,” said Wolgemuth. “So hopefully I’ll go from here and just keep putting in the work and see what happens.”
“Being on the tennis team is the fastest way to get friends and to have friends that are going to last you for a while, added Cummings. “… I just enjoy every single practice, every single match. It’s never been something that I’ve been dreading or not wanting to do. It’s just been really fun.”
In addition to Wolgemuth being named the conference player of the year, Miller was voted the Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference Coach of the Year in his first season at the helm. But he believes the situation he came into was beneficial to him receiving an individual award.
“It obviously feels good,” said Miller. “I think it’s more of a credit to them, the entire group of girls, than it is for me. It’s credit to their hard work and to something that’s already been established. So it’s more of a testament to them than to me. It’s more like they’re team of the year than it is me coach of the year.”
Now Wolgemuth and Cummings are cheering for their classmates who play on the Foard volleyball team. The Tigers won the 2A West Regional championship on Tuesday and will play Ayden-Grifton in the 2A state title match on Saturday in Fayetteville.
“It’s great, I really hope they win on Saturday,” said Wolgemuth. “Whenever Foard is good, you always feel like you’re a part of that, so I’m very excited for them and I really hope they win.”
“It’s neat to have kind of gone through what they’re feeling now,” added Cummings. “Just that anticipation of the last thing — ‘if we can just get this, if we can just win this, then we’ll win it all.’ So I’m definitely on their side, definitely rooting for them.”