04/09/04 — Tennis -- Warriors learning from early trials

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Tennis -- Warriors learning from early trials

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 9, 2004 2:00 PM

Eastern Wayne, admittedly, has taken its fair share of lumps on the boys' tennis scene this season.

The Warriors have endured lopsided defeats against traditional programs West Carteret, Washington and Charles B. Aycock. Despite the outcome, they have gained experience and have been competitive on nearly every point.

Some of that learning surfaced Thursday afternoon against West Craven. Eastern Wayne appeared more comfortable completing points and gained some self-assurance that it can play with anyone after blanking the Eagles 9-0 on the Wayne Community College courts.

Alex Bryant

News-Argus/Dennis Hill

Eastern Wayne junior Alex Bryant unloads a first serve against West Craven's Mike Oronato during their battle at No. 1 singles Thursday afternoon. Bryant claimed 10 of the final 11 games and dealt Oronato a 6-3, 6-1 loss on the Wayne Community College courts.

"I definitely think this is a confidence booster for them," veteran Warriors coach Nancy Dawson said. "It makes them feel like that what they've been working on in practice is starting to pay off."

Eastern Wayne (4-8) recorded its first shutout of the season and climbed to 4-5 in Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference play.

West Craven exited with an 0-6 worksheet.

"I thought it was a real good match," a smiling Dawson said. "The guys are doing what we ask them to do. They're learning and progressing, and you can't ask anything more than that from them."

It's been a learning season for the Eagles, as well. First-year coach Mike Swain has shouldered the responsibility of rejuvenating a program that has been off and on for the last 10 years.

Swain brought just five players to the match, including two girls, who are all underclassmen. It might be a small group, but he added it's a good corps to get the program back off the ground.

Sophomore Mike Onorato, who played at No. 3 in the Eagles' previous meeting with the Warriors, moved up to No. 1. Onorato had a solid and hard first serve, but was inconsistent.

Onorato blew out his right knee in West Craven's football game against archrival New Bern. He's using tennis as a measuring tool to see how his rehabilitation has progressed since the season-ending injury.

The Warriors' Alex Bryant, a junior, tested Oronato's running ability throughout the match. Oronato held a 3-2 lead in the opening set before Bryant started consistently moving the ball to the corners. The slower Oronato couldn't track down several balls and Bryant claimed 10 of the final 11 games in a 6-3, 6-1 win.

Second-seeded Ben Ziccardi faced Aaron Williams, who didn't mind venturing to the net. The strategy bothered Ziccardi, who allowed Williams to put away several points in the short court and to the corners.

Ziccardi, a freshman, kept his poise and benefited from unforced errors in a 6-2, 6-1 win.

Third-seeded James Arceneaux kept nearly every ball in play and waited until the Eagles' Raymond Warren made a mistake. Arceneaux bolted to a 5-0 lead in the opening set and eventually prevailed 6-1, 6-1.

"He has court savvy," Dawson said. "He listens to everything you tell him and if it's within his ability, he'll do his best to do it. He's got a hunger to win and will do something until he gets it right.

"He is never satisfied."

Fifth-seeded Chris Musser and sixth-seeded Phillip Bunn, both sophomores, each forced their opponents into numerous errors. Musser triumphed 6-1, 6-1 and Bunn lost just one game in a 6-0, 6-1 decision.

The doubles of Bryant-Ziccardi and Arceneaux-Smith each took an 8-1 win.

West Craven (0-6 ECC) defaulted the No. 4 singles and No. 3 doubles.

"We have been more competitive than our overall scores show," Dawson said. "It's just a matter of us finishing points, and we did that today. It lets them know that I've got to keep on doing this if I want to win matches."

Eastern Wayne entertains conference foe South Central, a first-year program, on April 20 at Herman Park.

Eastern Wayne 9, West Craven 0

Singles -- No. 1 Alex Bryant (EW) d. Mike Oronato 6-3, 6-1; No. 2 Ben Ziccardi (EW) d. Aaron Williams 6-2, 6-1; No. 3 James Arceneaux (EW) d. Raymond Warren 6-1, 6-1; No. 4 Andrew Smith (EW) by default; No. 5 Chris Musser (EW) d. Megan Abbott 6-1, 6-1; No. 6 Phillip Bunn (EW) d. Jenn Spruill 6-0, 6-1.

Doubles -- No. 1 Bryant-Ziccardi (EW) d. Oronato-Williams 8-1; No. 2 Arceneaux-Smith (EW) d. Williams-Abbott 8-1; No. 3 Musser-Bunn (EW) by default.