05/27/04 — Tennis playoffs -- GC returns to eastern finals

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Tennis playoffs -- GC returns to eastern finals

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 27, 2004 1:55 PM

SNOW HILL -- The Greene Central tennis team looked a little lethargic in the first couple of games Wednesday afternoon against dual-team playoff opponent St. Pauls.

But the Rams quickly found their groove and needed just 75 minutes to shut out yet another team in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2-A playoffs. They easily swept the singles in a 6-0 decision against the Bulldogs on the Snow Hill Tennis Complex courts.

Greene Central (24-0) picked up its 22nd shutout of the season and travels to Edenton this afternoon for the eastern regional championship against John A. Holmes. It's a rematch of last year's regional final won by the Rams on their home courts.

St. Pauls finished 18-4.

"We kind of got off to a slow start," Rams coach Brad Sauls said. "It's so hot and trying to keep your energy (level) up is hard in these conditions. I was pleased with the way, after the first few games, how we loosened up and played some solid tennis.

"It's a good win for our team because they have some good athletes."

The Rams have outscored the opposition 21-0 in the postseason and played a little more than three total hours in three matches. Two visiting teams opted to head home without playing doubles.

With very few consistent challenges and matches which sometimes lasted just 30 minutes, Sauls has worried -- at times -- about his team's complacency. In lopsided matches, he tells each player to focus on different aspects of their game, and compete against themselves.

"It's hard to get them pumped up for those types of situations," Sauls admitted. "But, you have to give them incentives ... set goals within ourselves.

"You have to look at (the lopsided wins) as a positive thing that we're just playing that well. We practice enough and I bring in enough outside people to play my guys so they have the competition."

Second-seeded Brent Darden and sixth-seeded Brian Sugg each posted a shutout. Third-seeded Lin Hall improved to 31-1 with a 6-1, 6-0 rout against Chris Douthit.

Top-seeded Andrew Hulbert climbed to 23-0 in singles play with a 6-2, 6-0 conquest of Zach Ward. Teammates Chris Hardy, the No. 4 seed, and fifth-seeded Dustin Grant each lost two games in straight-set wins.

Greene Central hasn't allowed a point since an 8-1 win against Southern Nash on April 6. Sauls' team holds the lone distinction of shutting out every opponent in the postseason thus far.

The Rams try for their third straight regional title against the Aces, who are making their second consecutive appearance in the final. The winner advances to a 1 p.m. match Saturday at the Burlington Tennis Center against the western champion.

"Certainly we are going to play against an energetic team who is going to want to beat us since we got them last year," Sauls said. "They have good athletes and have players who are not going to give up ... fight to the very end.

"We have to be prepared for that and play good tennis to beat them."

2004 N.C. High School

Athletic Association Class 2-A

Dual-Team Playoffs

Eastern semifinals

(at Snow Hill Tennis Complex)

Greene Central 6, St. Pauls 0

Singles -- No. 1 Andrew Hulbert (GC) d. Zach Ward 6-2, 6-0; No. 2 Brent Darden (GC) d. Jerrod Johnson 6-0, 6-0; No. 3 Lin Hall (GC) d. Chris Douthit 6-1, 6-0; No. 4 Chris Hardy (GC) d. Damel Wilson 6-1, 6-1; No. 5 Dustin Grant (GC) d. Frankie Stedman 6-2, 6-0; No. 6 Brian Sugg (GC) d. Dylan Mask 6-0, 6-0.

Doubles -- Not contested.