Rams tennis team just misses dual team state title
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 30, 2004 2:01 AM
BURLINGTON -- Every Greene Central player punctuated each point with emotion, intensity and determination Saturday afternoon. And when championship point had been determined, the Rams once again stumbled in their quest for a state dual-team tennis title.
Charlotte Catholic's No. 2 doubles of Kevin Beard-David Trautmann captured the final three games as the Cougars held off the Rams 5-4 for the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 2-A title. Catholic claimed its first title since 2000 and fourth overall since 1992.
Greene Central was making its third consecutive appearance in the final.
"They gave it all they had, but it wasn't quite enough against a good team," said Rams coach Brad Sauls, who choked back a few tears. "They played a little better on the big points than we did. They deserved to win."
"Honestly, after singles, I didn't think we had a chance. But we went out in doubles and took it to them. We made them win this match."
The Rams trailed 4-2 after singles, but refused to quit.
Andrew Hulbert and Brent Darden got a rematch against the Cougars' Paul Bartholomy-Brandon Lamoreaux. Hulbert-Darden knocked them off in straight sets last Saturday en route to the doubles state championship at Cary.
Bartholomy-Lamoreaux hung close early and trailed just 4-3 after a couple of court changes. Hulbert dominated with a serve game and Darden, despite suffering from cramps, converted crucial net points for a 6-3 advantage.
The teams traded games before Hulbert closed out the match with a beautifully-placed volley down center court. The 10-5 win, which was Hulbert-Darden's school-best 36th of the season, closed the overall gap to 4-3.
The drama continued to unfold on a gorgeous afternoon as the hardcourt temperatures soared into the 90s.
Greene Central's No. 3 doubles of Dustin Grant-Brian Sugg rallied from a 5-2 deficit to move ahead 7-6. Things got a little tense and nerve-racking for the Ram faithful in the next game when Grant twisted his ankle going for a deep baseline shot.
Grant recovered, Sugg found some much-needed energy and the duo moved within one game of tying the overall match score. However, the Cougars' tandem of Alex Warnement-Robert McLaughlin pulled within 9-8 to prolong the outcome.
Grant quickly gained triple-match point on his serve. McLaughlin answered with a short return to make it 40-15. Grant finished off the Cougars with a strong backhand return to the crosscourt corner.
All eyes then turned toward court No. 2.
By the time Grant-Sugg had tied the overall match score, teammates Chris Hardy and Lin Hall were battling back against Beard-Trautmann. Hardy-Hall turned a 7-6 deficit into an 8-7 lead.
But Beard-Trautmann picked up two straight wins and led 9-8 with Beard on serve. The teams traded several unforced errors before Hardy tied it at 30-30 on a forehand volley which Beard returned into the net.
Beard retaliated with a forehand return for a 40-30 lead. Hall fought off the first championship point and tied the game at deuce with a smartly-placed forehand volley that Trautmann framed as he attempted to place it down the middle.
Hall aggressively played the next two points -- a mishit on a smash attempt and a forehand return that hit net on the second championship point. Catholic, which had lost two state-title matches by 5-4 scores in 1991 and 2000, finally reversed the trend.
Hall crouched and buried his head in hands as the Cougars rushed the court to celebrate with Beard and Trautmann.
"I was very proud of his effort," Sauls said. "He gave me everything he had. The overhead was a tough shot and in those type of situations, you have to go for it. Had he not gone for it, I think he would have regretted it.
"He did the right thing on the next point. He went down the line with the forehand and 75 percent of the time, you're going to make that shot. He and Chris gave a lot of heart and effort."
Hulbert and Grant each seized a singles match for the Rams.
Hulbert finished his senior season 25-0 with a 7-5, 6-3 triumph against Beard. Grant, unbeaten in 26 singles outings, rallied past Robert Hazen 7-6 (3), 6-4. Grant trailed 6-5 in the opening set and 4-3 in the second set before taking control.
The remaining Rams played aggressive on every point, but fell to victim to crucial and uncharacteristic unforced errors. Unlike the Rams' previous 25 opponents, the Cougars pounced on every opportunity and collected numerous service breaks on every court.
Sauls didn't mind the aggressive attitude.
"If you hold back at this point, you might regret it," he said. "We played with no inhibitions whatsoever."
Greene Central's senior starters -- Hulbert, Grant and Sugg -- finished 71-4 overall the past three seasons. Only one loss came against an eastern opponent, Southern Nash, while the remaining three occurred in the state championship.
The Rams lost to Shelby in 2002 and 2003.
Sauls expects the tradition to continue.
"You've got to get six dedicated players who will work in the offseason, and players who have that desire and determination to win a state championship," Sauls said. "I had that type of group this year. We lose some great players, but we've got some good talent coming back next year.
"The young players will hopefully use this match as inspiration to come up here next year and win the state championship."
All it takes is heart, desire, emotion, intensity and determination -- which the Rams had this season.
2004 N.C. High School
Athletic Association Class 2-A
(at Burlington Tennis Center)
Charlotte Catholic 5, Greene Central 4
Singles -- No. 1 Andrew Hulbert (GC) d. Kevin Beard 7-5, 6-3; No. 2 Paul Bartholomy (CC) d. Brent Darden 6-3, 6-3; No. 3 Brandon Lamoreaux (CC) d. Lin Hall 6-3, 6-4; No. 4 David Trautmann (CC) d. Chris Hardy 6-0, 6-1; No. 5 Dustin Grant (GC) d. Robert Hazen 7-6 (3), 6-4; No. 6 Max Ohlhaut (CC) d. Brian Sugg 6-4, 6-2.
Doubles -- No. 1 Hulbert-Darden (GC) d. Bartholomy-Lamoreaux 10-5; No. 2 Beard-Trautmann (CC) d. Hall-Hardy 10-8; No. 3 Grant-Sugg (GC) d. Alex Warnement-Robert McLaughlin 10-8.
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