05/19/04 — Rams keep rolling in dual team tennis

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Rams keep rolling in dual team tennis

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 19, 2004 1:57 PM

SNOW HILL -- Since its emergence as a playoff powerhouse, the Greene Central tennis program has earned numerous satisfying victories in the postseason. But none was more gratifying than Tuesday afternoon's 6-0 conquest of Pittsboro Northwood.

The Rams played their most-complete match of the season and needed just 64 minutes to eliminate the Chargers from the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 2-A dual-team playoffs. They shut out an opponent for the 21st time this season and remained unbeaten in 23 outings.

Northwood suffered its third straight playoff loss against Greene Central and concluded its season 19-3.

"I knew we had it in us to defeat this team easily if we played our best tennis," Rams coach Brad Sauls said. "The question was, 'was our best tennis going to show up?'

"I think, today, for the most part we played really well."

The Rams held an opponent scoreless for the ninth straight match and captured their 15th playoff win in 19 tries since 2000. They continue defense of their eastern regional title at home next Tuesday against either St. Pauls or Cedar Ridge.

Each of the past two seasons, the Rams upended the Chargers 5-4 on the road. There were no dramatics on a breezy, hot afternoon at the Snow Hill Tennis Complex.

The Rams played intense and focused, and with some surprising emotion.

"We don't usually have a lot of emotional players as far as (saying) 'yes' and 'come on' and I like to hear that," a grinning Sauls said. "That lets your opponent know that you're here to play to win and it also makes me feel a little more secure about when they're on the court they're going to give me 100 percent.

"The last two years we've had unbelievable matches against them. Obviously we've been lucky in those matches to pull them out. Today was a big mental barrier for us to overcome."

Top-seeded Andrew Hulbert exited the court first with a 6-0, 6-1 blitzing of Craig Allen. Sixth-seeded Brian Sugg, now 23-1 this season, followed with a 6-0, 6-0 triumph against Philip Cooper.

Lin Hall earned the Rams' third singles win 6-1, 6-1 against hard-serving Chris Poe. Hall collected his team-leading 30th win and is just four singles wins shy of tying Brent Darden's single-season record of 34 set his freshman year.

"Brian and Lin just looked on fire to me from the beginning," Sauls said. "A couple of others might have had a little bit longer to warm up, but they got into it."

Dustin Grant trailed John Misenheimer 3-2 in the opening set. The Greene Central senior bounced back to win the next 10 games and handed Misenheimer a 6-3, 6-0 loss.

Grant improved to 23-0.

"He started playing his game and getting more relaxed," Sauls said. "I think it was nerves, a little more afraid to hit the ball because the wind is blowing hard in one direction and not the other.

"He was a little unsure of what to do. Finally, he figured out how to handle it. I'm proud of that win."

Junior Brent Darden sealed the Rams' seventh straight home playoff win with a 6-0, 6-1 decision against Wil Donegan at the No. 2 slot. Darden climbed to 23-0 and handed Donegan just his fourth singles defeat of the season.

Chris Hardy completed the shutout with a come-from-behind 6-3, 7-5 win against Aaron Thomas at No. 4. Hardy rallied from a 3-2 deficit in the opening set. He won the final three games in the second set, including a love game that included two aces and a beautifully-placed drop shot.

"He didn't play his best tennis, but he did what he had to do to win," Sauls said. "He kept the ball in play and just wait for the right opporunity. That's hard to do when you play aggressive tennis and that's (passivity) not your style.

"It's tough and I'm proud of him for sticking to that game plan."

2004 N.C. High School

Athletic Association

Class 2-A Dual-Team Playoffs


(at Snow Hill Tennis Complex)

Greene Central 6,

Pittsboro Northwood 0

Singles -- No. 1 Andrew Hulbert (GC) d. Craig Allen 6-0, 6-1; No. 2 Brent Darden (GC) d. Wil Donegan 6-0, 6-1; No. 3 Lin Hall (GC) d. Chris Poe 6-1, 6-1; No. 4 Chris Hardy (GC) d. Aaron Thomas 6-3, 7-5; No. 5 Dustin Grant (GC) d. John Misenheimer 6-3, 6-0; No. 6 Brian Sugg (GC) d. Philip Cooper 6-0, 6-0.

Doubles -- Not contested.