04/06/04 — Tennis -- NL edges Rosewood

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Tennis -- NL edges Rosewood

By David Williams
Published in Sports on April 6, 2004 1:58 PM

It is true in sports -- and particularly true in team tennis -- that victories by small margins can add up to a big overall victory.

The chilly, blustery courts of Rosewood High School proved that out Monday as North Lenoir and Rosewood squared off to battle.

Alex Mills

News-Argus/Dennis Hill

Alex Mills

To say the least, the games were close. Four of the six singles matches went to three sets. Two matches had tiebreakers used -- one to determine the outcome of the match.

But in nearly every case, the North Lenoir player found a way to get past his opponent as the Class 2-A Hawks earned a 7-2 win over their scrappy 1-A competitors.

"These, good tight matches are pretty good to set us up for conference tournament, and hopefully for the playoffs," said North Lenoir coach Scott Smith. "You can tell their boys are much improved. We were scared there, coming down to the doubles matches to get the win."

Wesley Lovelady

News-Argus/Dennis Hill

Wesley Lovelady

"There were a lot of close matches today," said Rosewood coach Bert Perkins. "I think we puled out two of the three-set matches and had a close doubles match. I thought we had a pretty good chance today, and it looked like we might be able to hang in there and pull out a 5-4 match, but I think we lost focus right there at the end.

"They are a very good team. They've got a pretty even team all the way through the lineup."

After the marathon singles competition, North Lenoir was ahead 4-2 and Rosewood needed a sweep of the doubles matches to win. But it was not to be as the No. 1 doubles team of Alex Mills and Jared O'Dell outdueled Wesley Lovelady and Matt Mitchell 9-8, with an 8-6 tiebreaker.

That match clinched the victory, with North Lenoir wins at No. 2 and No. 3 soon to follow.

"Those two boys right there in doubles are a junior and a sophomore," said Smith. That sets up their confidence for later on."

The singles started out as even as they ended, with patience and baseline play the watchword of the afternoon.

At No. 1, Lovelady fought hard with Mills for over two hours in a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 win for Rosewood senior.

"Wesley played the best match he's played all year," said Perkins. "He had a good match against the Wilson boy from Spring Creek and beat him, but this match today was one of his best this year."

The Hawks had little trouble at Nos. 2 and 3 as O'Dell and Billy Kirk picked up straight-set wins over Mitchell and Brandon Heitpas, respectively.

Down at No. 4, the Eagles' Ty Johnson went to a tiebreak to take the opening set from Paul Eubanks 7-6 (7-4). Eubanks then rallied for a 6-2 win in the second set, but Johnson regained control of the match to win the final set 6-1.

The final two singles matches were also three-set affairs. Gerry Floyd fought back from a set down to take Rosewood's Joey Churchwell 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in what may have been the hardest-fought match of the group. Churchwell was up 4-1 in the third set when Floyd staged a strong rally to win.

At No. 6, the Hawks' Ryan Ipock blanked J.P. Cummings 6-0 in their opening set, only to see Cummings come back to win the second set 6-4. It took Ipock a couple of games to finally seize control and topple the newcomer 6-3 in the final set.

"We've got a young player at No. 6, and he's learning," said Perkins. "He'll get better with experience, and he'll learn to pull out matches like that."

The Hawks (9-4, 8-3) will travel to North Pitt this afternoon, while Rosewood (6-5, 5-5) will head for Tarboro.

"I was pleased overall, because they are a good team," said Perkins. "They're probably the second-best team in the league, Greene Central being the best by far."

North Lenoir 7, Rosewood 2

Singles -- No. 1 Wesley Lovelady (R), d. Alex Mills 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. No. 2 Jared O'Dell (NL) d. Matt Mitchell 6-4, 6-1. No. 3 Billy Kirk (NL) d. Brandon Heitpas 6-4, 6-1. No. 4 Ty Johnson (R) d. Paul Eubanks 7-6(7-4), 2-6, 6-1. No. 5 Gerry Floyd (NL) d. Joey Churchwell 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. No. 6 Ryan Ipock (NL) d. J.P. Cummings 6-0, 4-6, 6-3. Doubles -- No. 1 Mills-O'Dell (NL), d. Lovelady-Mitchell 9-8 (8-6). No. 2 Kirk-Eubanks (NL) d. Heitpas-Churchwell 8-5. No. 3 Floyd-Ipock (NL) d. Johnson-Cummings 8-0.