They were matched over a year ago by first-year coach Christy Page, who had just succeeded Roberta Manheim. Page was faced with the daunting task of finding the right singles and doubles lineup among a team of new players after the Lady Raiders graduated virtually the entire team that won state in 2011.
Page and the Walton newcomers were also faced with the pressure of extending Walton’s state record-setting winning streak that started under Manheim back in 2004.
Even though Walton was unable to extend its winning streak last season – it stopped at 158 straight wins when Roswell beat the Lady Raiders in the state quarterfinals — Cramer and Riley made Page’s job much easier.
And their perfection at No. 1 doubles extended through this season.
Not only have they not lost a match together, they’ve yet to lose a set. They finished with a 14-0 record as they helped the Lady Raiders capture their eighth state title in the last nine years with a 3-2 victory over Peachtree Ridge in the Class AAAAAA state finals. Cramer and Riley were named Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Co-Girls Tennis Players of the year for their efforts.
“They just seem to really click,” Page said.
Cramer and Riley try to have fun on the court, even during pressure situations like when they trailed 5-1 in the first set to Peachtree Ridge in the state finals before winning 7-5, 6-3. They’re known to crack smiles and give high-fives, even when they lose a point. They say it’s their way of staying focused.
The Walton duo knows when it’s time to get serious. They probably wouldn’t have battled their way out of their 5-1 deficit without giving constructive criticism.
“They’re both awesome about boosting each other’s confidence and helping each other out,” Page said.
Their style of play also goes hand-in-hand.
Cramer’s strong groundstrokes helps set up Riley at net. And Riley’s first serves serve often leads to quick points with Riley up front to put away weak returns.
If the two of them had one glaring weakness, it’s not being able to start fast.
“We get nervous and don’t do well under pressure, but we get through it,” Riley said. “We go into every match thinking that we can beat them, but it’s more of a mental thing that gets in the way. We’re slow starters.”
That was certainly the case against Peachtree Ridge when they found themselves in a 5-1 deficit. And even when they were losing, they kept staying upbeat.
Then they started making shots instead of unforced errors, which led to winning six straight games to win the set and establish momentum, which carried over into the second set.
“We started winning a few points and started coming back,” Riley said.
There were at least five other times when Riley and Cramer were endangered of losing a set. They won the first set tiebreaker 10-8 in their state quarterfinal match against North Gwinnett that led to a 7-6 (8), 6-4 victory.
They needed to win a second set tiebreaker to get through Roswell in straight set, and when they faced the Lady Hornets in the finals of the Region 5AAAAAA tournament, they grinded out a 6-4, 6-2 win.
They were also in a heated first set battle against Etowah in 5AAAAAA play before winning 7-5, 6-2.