08/17/04 — A victory in defeat

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A victory in defeat

By David Williams
Published in Sports on August 17, 2004 1:56 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Southern Wayne Coach Brad Matthews knew going in to Monday's season-opening tennis match with Kinston that his young, inexperienced teams was going to get bounced around some this season.

And while the Saints dropped their match to the Vikings 6-3 at Mount Olive College's John Neal Walker Tennis Center, they certainly gave their coach a lot to smile about.

Southern Wayne flexed some surprising muscle at the bottom of the seedings and avoided an early exit, fighting hard until the first doubles match was decided. The Saints picked up wins at Nos. 5 and 6 singles and No. 3 doubles -- no mean feat considering the only member of the squad that had even swung a competitive racket before was No. 1 singles player Beth Brown.

"I am real pleased with that," Matthews said after the match. "We got a lot out of the bottom of the order and all the girls played well."

Kinston, with more returning players, got off to a quick 4-0 lead as the heat of the afternoon combined with some solid basic tennis to benefit the visitors. While No. 2 Tara Tillman and No. 4 Kasey Powell fought back to 6-3 second-set scores, the Vikings were firing on all cylinders and it appeared the Saints would be swept into defeat.

Nobody told Whitli Thornton or Leslie Barrow that they were not supposed to win, however.

Thornton, playing at No. 5, kept pounding the ball back to the baseline against Sarah Culbreth and ended up with a 6-4 win in the opening set. Culbreth managed to get the ball toward the net in the opening half of the second set, jumping out to a 4-2 lead.

But Thornton regrouped and get her opponent back on the baseline, where she continued to play shots to the back court and shoved a few cross-court winners past Culbreth. Thornton fight back to a 6-6 tie and force a tiebreaker. She rattled off winners in four of the first five points and pulled away to a 7-2 win.

Barrow, playing at No. 6. was patient and used solid lobs to force errors out of Madison Kearney. Barrow, still on the court as Thornton went into her tie-breaker, ended up with the 6-0, 6-3 victory.

Matthews switched up the doubles lineup with Thornton and Barrow still playing their singles matches, going with newcomers Katie Savage and Christy Westbrook at No. 3. They managed to outplay Kinston's Brittany Croom and Brittany Harris for an 8-2 victory, using patient lobs and waiting for the other team to show an error they could take advantage of.

Kinston's experience at the higher seeds proved to be the Saints' undoing, as Morgan Holloman, Katie Keith, Jesse Anderson and Stuart Edwards all swept to singles and doubles wins.

"I have told the girls not to worry about wins and losses, but to try and get better every time we go out," said Matthews. "There are no seniors on this team. We're building for the future.

"We just want to improve every day."

The Saints' next court opportunity comes on Wednesday as Southern Wayne travels to South Central. Charles B. Aycock meets the Saints Thursday at the Walker Tennis Center.

Kinston 6, Southern Wayne 3

Singles -- No. 1 Morgan Holloman (K) d. Beth Brown 6-1, 6-1. No. 2 Katie Keith (K) d. Tara Tillman 6-1, 6-3. No. 3 Jesse Anderson (K) d. Emily Taylor 6-0, 6-0. No. 4 Stuart Edwards (K) d. Kasey Powell 6-0, 6-3. No. 5 Whitli Thornton (SW) d. Sarah Culbreth 6-4, 7-6(7-2). No. 6 Leslie Barrow (SW) d., Madison Kearney 6-0, 6-3.

Doubles -- No. 1 Holloman-Keith (K) d. Brown-Taylor 8-1. No. 2 Anderson-Edwards (K) d. Tillman-Powell 8-1. No. 3 Katie Savage-Christy Westbrook (SW) d. Brittany Croom-Brittany Harris 8-2.