04/07/04 — Tennis -- Rams avenge tennis defeat

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Tennis -- Rams avenge tennis defeat

By David Rouse
Published in Sports on April 7, 2004 2:02 PM

SNOW HILL -- A midseason matchup between two of eastern North Carolina's top boys' tennis programs, Greene Central and Southern Nash, produced a smidgeon of revenge and a learning lesson Tuesday afternoon.

The more-experienced Rams used last year's regular-season defeat against the Firebirds as motivation and prevailed 8-1 at the Snow Hill Tennis Complex courts.

Mean-while, Southern Nash, which lost four starters off last year's team, picked up some valuable tips against its unbeaten host.

"I told the boys this team is going to be more experienced and I know they are going to have better skills," Firebirds coach Brad Joyner said. "I told them you have to go out there, make your shots, play your style of game and try to lull them to sleep.

"I said get them off their game, get them confused ... get them frustrated."

The Rams never fell into the Firebirds' trap.

Each player, from top to bottom, showed an aggressive attitude from the opening serve to the last in the breezy conditions. Greene Central needed close to 80 minutes to secure its 18th consecutive regular-season victory, dating back to last year's road defeat against the Firebirds.

"We came out with revenge on our mind, for sure," Rams coach Brad Sauls said. "They had a better team than we did last year. This year, I think it's the reverse. We might be a little more experienced and a lot stronger at the top than they are.

"A lot of the guys have been looking forward to the match."

Top-seeded Andrew Hulbert faced the Firebirds' Kyle Glasgow in a rematch of their No. 2 seed battle from last year. The result was basically the same.

An emotional Hulbert stayed on the baseline and pounded ball after ball at Glasgow, who never switched tactics to pull Hulbert toward the net. Glasgow hit numerous unforced errors and failed to win a game on serve the entire afternoon.

Hulbert prevailed 6-0, 6-0 and remained unbeaten in 14 outings.

Second-seeded Brent Darden capitalized on mistakes by the Firebirds' Sam Flores, who had won 37 consecutive matches. Flores double faulted three times in his first service game and never recovered.

Darden (14-0) relentlessly attacked Flores' second serve and sprayed winning passing shots to the corners. Flores trailed 3-0 in each set before taking a game against Darden, who was near perfect in a 6-2, 6-1 win.

"I've told them they need to develop a better second serve," Joyner said of his players. "That doesn't matter against some people, but it matters when you play somebody who hits it back and it becomes a finishing point.

"Sam is athletic and he's going to run down balls, but if somebody is able to come in, angle it and hit it with velocity, that's it. That definitely made a difference."

Left-hander Lin Hall, the No. 3 seed, played smart at the net and converted a few forehand passing shots into critical points against Southern's Matthew Gardner. Hall and Gardner split the final four games in the opening set as Hall won 6-3.

Hall shut down Gardner 6-0 in the second set.

Fourth-seeded Chris Hardy blitzed Ben Fite 6-0, 6-2 and improved to 14-0 this season.

Teammate Brian Sugg wrapped up the overall match with a 6-4, 6-3 decision against Daniel Berry at the No. 6 slot. Sugg trailed 4-3 in the opening set and 2-1 in the second set before picking up his 13th singles win of the season.

"We knew with losing four people out of our top six that it was going to be tough to come over here and make up all that," Joyner said. "My players learned a lot today."

The Rams' Dustin Grant, the No. 5 seed, completed the singles sweep with a 6-4, 5-7, 7-5 victory against Daniel Bryant. Grant, obviously tired from the grueling three-setter, couldn't keep the momentum in doubles. He and Sugg fell to Ben Fite-Chris Brandt 9-8, 7-4 in the tiebreaker.

Hulbert-Darden and Hall-Hardy each remained unbeaten in 14 outings in doubles. Hulbert-Darden blanked Glasgow-Flores 8-0, while Hall-Hardy slipped past Gardner-Andy Snipes 8-5.

"Playing a team that can hit more than three or four balls back is actually refreshing to see and my guys enjoy that," Sauls said. "This is what they want to play against (every day) and they don't enjoy winning 9-0.

"They want to play good, tight matches because that is really what is going to prepare you for the playoffs."

Greene Central (14-0) has shut out 12 opponents this season and carries a 79-match conference win streak into Thursday's home battle against Farmville Central.

Greene Central 8, Southern Nash 1

Singles -- No. 1 Andrew Hulbert (GC) d. Kyle Glasgow 6-0, 6-0; No. 2 Brent Darden (GC) d. Sam Flores 6-2, 6-1; No. 3 Lin Hall (GC) d. Matthew Gardner 6-3, 6-0; No. 4 Chris Hardy (GC) d. Ben Fite 6-0, 6-2; No. 5 Dustin Grant (GC) d. Daniel Bryant 6-4, 5-7, 7-5; No. 6 Brian Sugg (GC) d. Daniel Berry 6-4, 6-3.

Doubles -- No. 1 Hulbert-Darden (GC) d. Glasgow-Flores 8-0; No. 2 Hall-Hardy (GC) d. Gardner-Andy Snipes 8-5; No. 3 Fite-Chris Brandt (GC) d. Grant-Sugg 9-8 (4).