Tennis -- Eagle boys shade Gators for Carolina title
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 6, 2004 1:58 PM
SNOW HILL -- A last-minute lineup adjustment paid dividends for the Rosewood High boys tennis team.
Instead of entering Wesley Lovelady in the doubles with Matt Mitchell, veteran coach Bert Perkins put Lovelady in the singles bracket. He put Mitchell with Joey Churchwell, and placed Ty Johnson with Daniel Ellis.
All five players responded in stirring fashion to the change. The quintet, along with Brandon Hietpas, guided the Eagles to the Class 1-A Carolina Conference team tournament championship Wednesday afternoon.
Lovelady emerged the Carolina singles champion with a 6-2, 6-2 victory against Spring Creek's Will Daniel. Johnson-Ellis and Hietpas each collected valuable points in consolation-round matches as Rosewood edged archrival Spring Creek 14-11.
"We played it right for the tournament," a shocked Perkins said. "That's amazing, isn't it? It's really wild, I'll tell you that.
"I just put together those doubles teams at the end of the season. But when you do something like that, you never know how well they'll mesh together."
Lovelady certainly lived up to Perkins' expectations.
The top seed, Lovelady reached the final by losing just one set in three matches. When he met Daniel, he held nothing back and played assertive on every point.
Lovelady won the first 12 points of the match against Daniel and grabbed a 3-0 lead in the opening set. Daniel held serve at 4-1 and 5-2 before Lovelady closed out the first set with a forehand return down the line.
Daniel, again, struggled in the second set. Lovelady collected 12 of the first 15 points and eventually built a 4-0 lead.
"I felt like I had to play consistently and make him make the mistakes," Lovelady said. "Whenever you get that early momentum and can keep it, you can control the match."
Daniel held serve at 4-1 after hitting back-to-back passing shots down the line. He won four consecutive points and broke Lovelady's serve in the next game.
Lovelady (15-5) regrouped, claimed the next two games and captured his first-ever Carolina title. A junior, Lovelady served nine aces in the match and won 55 of the 84 points played on the afternoon.
"I never really thought about winning the singles," Lovelady said. "I played doubles with Matt last year and we reached the first round of the state tournament. But Coach Perkins said I had a chance to win it."
Meanwhile, Spring Creek returned home with the doubles championship for the second straight year. Siblings Cliff and Grey Wilson (17-2) successfully defended their tournament title with a 6-1, 7-5 conquest of Farmville Central's Ben Adams-James Newsome.
Daniel and Ricky Galloway finished second and third, respectively, in singles. However, coach Robert Jones knew that the Eagles had the upper hand in the consolation rounds.
The Gators lost two singles matches, one each to powerhouse Greene Central and SouthWest Edgecombe. They also fell to Greene Central in a match which determined the Carolina/Eastern Plains doubles champion.
"We're first in doubles, second and third in singles, so what else can you expect?" Jones said. "We did exactly like I thought we would. I thought we played well in spurts, but not consistent enough to win matches."
Johnson-Ellis and Hietpas dominated their early matches in consolation-round play. All three qualified, along with Mitchell-Churchwell and Lovelady, for next weekend's eastern individual regional tournament at Herman Park.
Spring Creek (14-2) is scheduled to visit Bear Grass in next Tuesday's opening round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association dual-team playoffs. Rosewood (10-7) is the guest of Durham School of the Arts the same afternoon.
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