08/18/04 — Prep tennis -- Gators earn win over rival Rosewood

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Prep tennis -- Gators earn win over rival Rosewood

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 18, 2004 1:56 PM

Whether an opener or a mid-season matchup, Spring Creek's 7-2 conquest against archrival Rosewood proved two things Tuesday afternoon.

One -- the experienced and talent-laden Gators are certainly favored to defend their Class 1-A Carolina Conference girls tennis championship. Two -- Rosewood isn't far behind.

"This is not what you really want to do to start the season by playing Spring Creek," veteran Rosewood coach Bert Perkins said. "It would have been nice to maybe have played the 2-A teams first in our conference and then the 1-A teams. I think that would be a better schedule for us.

"(But) I'm pleased because it's been a competitve match. It hasn't been a quick, easy match for Spring Creek. They've had to play hard."

The Gators evened the all-time series at 5-5 and beat the Eagles for the fourth consecutive time -- the longest win streak by either team.

Spring Creek's win, which took three-plus hours to complete, occurred without two-time Carolina singles champion Stacy Smith. The junior is awaiting medical clearance, but coach Robert Jones wouldn't expand further on the loss.

"Let's hope that situation works out," Jones said. "If it doesn't, we'll just go with what we've got and see what happens the rest of the year."

The line-up change didn't affect the Gators.

Sarah Warren stepped into the No. 1 slot and started the year with a come-from-behind victory against Kayce Brantham, the 2003 Carolina singles runner-up. Brantham led 3-2 in the second set, but lost a service break and trailed 4-3 after the court change.

Brantham stayed within striking distance before Warren prevailed 6-1, 6-4.

Christie Bradshaw followed Warren's example. The No. 2 seed trailed 4-3 in the second set and claimed the next two games for a 5-4 lead. Bradshaw tallied two winners -- a forehand passing shot and a defensive lob -- on her serve and capitalized on two unforced errors in the final game.

"They both got a little fatigued that second set, but they still managed to have enough game in them to pull out the match," Jones said. "That shows a lot about their character."

The rallying didn't stop there for the Gators.

Fifth-seeded Kelly Murphy, a senior, fell behind 4-1 against freshman Missy Bailey. Bailey consistently kept the ball in play, which frustrated Murphy and led to several unforced errors.

Murphy forged ahead 6-5, but Bailey battled back to force a tiebreaker. Bailey turned a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 advantage in the tiebreaker, but allowed Murphy to regain the lead at 5-4. The two traded points before Bailey hit a forehand return long and gave Murphy the opening set.

Bailey never recovered and eventually lost 7-6 (5), 6-1 to her more-experienced opponent. Murphy's straight-set triumph sealed the overall outcome for the Gators, who beat an opponent for the 20th time in 24 tries dating back to last season.

Moments before Murphy's match-clinching win, teammate Sarah Bragg eased past Kourtney Humphrey 6-3, 6-3 at the No. 4.

"I know four girls played hard in singles, but there's a couple who need to get more aggressive," Perkins said. "When they do that, that will help us move along a little bit better. We'll work on that in practice.

"I was real pleased with our young girls. I thought our returners played well."

Third-seeded Sydney Worrell emerged the lone winner for the Eagles with a 6-3, 6-1 showing against Melanie Worrell.

Spring Creek took two of three doubles matches. Warren-Bradshaw, the reigning Carolina doubles champions, stopped Brantham-Worrell 8-3. Teammates Murphy-Cynthia Breault slipped past Bailey-Nichols 8-6.

The Eagles' Smith-Humphrey won 8-4 at No. 2 doubles.

The teams continue play Thursday against Carolina/Eastern Plains Conference opponents. Rosewood is the guest of Ayden-Grifton, while the Gators travel to North Pitt.

"We played well in spots and it's early still," Jones said. "We've got a lot of things to work on ... being consistent from the ground is the main thing. I think, a lot of times, our approaches at the net are in vain a little bit (and) at ill-advised times.

"We just need to be more consistent, especially with an experienced team."

Spring Creek 7, Rosewood 2

Singles -- No. 1 Sarah Warren (SC) d. Kayce Brantham 6-1, 6-4; No. 2 Christie Bradshaw (SC) d. Leah Smith 6-1, 6-4; No. 3 Sydney Worrell (R) d. Melanie Harlow 6-3, 6-1; No. 4 Sarah Bragg (SC) d. Kourtney Humphrey 6-3, 6-3; No. 5 Kelly Murphy (SC) d. Missy Bailey 7-6 (5), 6-1; No. 6 Cynthia Breault (SC) d. Erica Nichols 6-0, 6-2.

Doubles -- No. 1 Warren-Bradshaw (SC) d. Brantham-Worrell 8-3; No. 2 Smith-Humphrey (R) d. Harlow-Bragg 8-4; No. 3 Murphy-Breault (SC) d. Bailey-Nichols 8-6.