Charlotte Catholic senior Grace Deering will admit that she was very much a rookie when she started playing at Line 4 on the Cougar tennis team as a freshman.
But the accolades she’s racked up since could hardly be labeled as beginner’s luck, as she’s competing at Line 1 during the sophomore, junior and senior years of her accomplished career. During that time, Deering has proved it’s not a complete tennis season unless she makes a deep run in both dual teams and the individual tournament.
Deering has been an integral part of two dual team state championships (2010, 2012) as well as another dual team state finals appearance (2011). She made a run at the individual state doubles’ title in 2010, finishing as a semi-finalist with partner Rachel Tomchin. The following year, she made another semi-finals appearance, this time in singles. Last season, she and Tomchin made a championship appearance in the 3A state doubles’ finals, but dropped a tough match to Weddington’s Emma Yates and 2013 3A singles champion Heidi Swope.
Her dedication to the sport and contribution to the Catholic program have made her one of Mecklenburg County’s most competitive players, and for the second consecutive seasons earned her the 2013 Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group’s Southern Mecklenburg Girls Tennis Player of the Year.
“Playing here at Catholic has been such a great experience,” Deering said. “I’ve loved every season. They’ve each been so different, but so great.”
Catholic moved up to the Class 4A classification in Deering’s senior season, making the competition much more difficult. At the Class 3A level, Catholic had claimed four of the last six dual team state championships –including winning it last season – but lost this year on the road to the finals to a tough Myers Park team.
Catholic had topped Myers Park earlier in the season, 5-4, but the Mustangs were without their No. 1 singles’ player, Katherine Butler, at the time. When Butler returned for the playoffs, it was enough to overpower the Cougars.
Despite the loss, Deering says she couldn’t have planned a better ending for her senior season.
“It’s fitting, how the season ended,” she said. “We moved up to 4A which was tough, but I gave it my best and I feel like my teammates gave it their best and that’s really the best way to go out.
“I knew it was going to be different this time around, and I didn’t know what to expect. Playing Myers Park was always one of my favorite matches. I love the girls on the team, so it’s really almost fitting that we lost to one of my favorite teams. It’s disappointing, but we gave it our all.”
On her individual singles’ title run Deering clinched the So. Meck 8 conference title and was runner-up at the 4A Western Regional, but fell in the second round of the state tournament to Raleigh Wakefield’s Suzanne Boyden, who would become the 4A singles’ champion.
“In the end, I was more concerned about the team matches,” Deering said. “My goal was to make it to individual states, so I did accomplish my goal. The girl I fell to at states, I know her from tournaments and she’s a great player, so I’m proud of the way I went out.”
Having played her final match of high school tennis, Deering is now deciding on whether or not she’ll pursue the sport at the next level. Regardless of her decision, she knows that tennis has developed her into the person she is today and she’s certainly made her senior season one to remember.
“Freshman year, Coach (Jo) Cabana told me, ‘Tennis is life,’” Deering said. “I thought she was kind of crazy for saying that. But over the course of the last four years I’ve learned that it’s so true. She toughened me up and taught me how to win, and I’ve learned so much through tennis on and off the court. It’s given me so many opportunities in my life that I’m thankful for.”