It always helps to have a No. 1 singles player who hardly gets rattled and can win in pressure situations.
Once the Lady Buccaneers made it to the Class AAA state quarterfinals this year, and played host to defending state champion Woodward Academy, their survival depended on Craig.
The sophomore found ways to win matches from behind, and she helped Allatoona make it all the way to the state finals before the Lady Buccaneers lost a tight battle to a far-more-proven St. Pius X program.
Craig finished with a 23-2 record and helped Allatoona snag its second straight Region 7AAA title. For her efforts at the top singles position, she is the 2012 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Girls Tennis Player of the Year.
“First of all, she was an amazing teammate,” doubles player Caitlin Shannon said of Craig. “She was so great to have on the team. I’ve known her ever since the fifth grade, and just seeing her pull through our whole team though was amazing. She’s a great player all together, so we’re all very proud of her.”
Craig came from behind in the third set of her match against Woodward in the quarterfinals to win 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2.
It seemed that all was lost for her once the match went to a third set, as serve and return-of-serve mistakes quickly dropped her into a 2-0 bind. But, once coach Joe Soley had a quick pep talk with his young player, mistakes by Craig were few and far between. She began making shots, which led to winning six straight games.
“When we were down, he kept us positive,” Craig said of her coach. “He kept saying, ‘You can do it, you can do it,’ and, ‘Believe in yourself.’”
Craig’s resolve after falling behind against Woodward allowed the Lady Buccaneers to reach the state semifinals for the first time.
Allatoona’s semifinal-round matchup against Richmond Academy was deja vu all over again. The season again came down to Craig’s match, and she found herself in even a bigger third-set deficit than in the quarterfinal.
But again, she found a way to fight back before winning 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Craig said she doubted herself when she was trailing 3-0 in the third set to Richmond Academy’s Kayla Price, but she reminded herself of what was at stake, and she regained her composure.
Just like she did against Woodward, Craig rattled off six straight games to win the match.
“Well, I was kind of scared that I wouldn’t come back, but I knew, if I’d won, the team would win,” Craig said. “Everyone was cheering for me, so I had to do this for them. I tried to be more consistent and stay calm.”
The turning point of Craig’s third set against Price came when she held serve at deuce to tie the third set at 3-all. She went on to break Price in the next game on a forehand winner before winning the next two games convincingly.
But when Craig was thrusted back on court against St. Pius’ Blaine Boaz, just an hour after beating Price, she found herself in another three-setter.
This time, however, she didn’t have the energy to pull it out. After fighting back in the second set to stay in it, Craig lost 7-5, 4-6, 6-2.
“We did really good making second in state and winning region a second time in a row,” Craig said. “I’m proud of us, and we want to go further next year.”