09/10/04 — Gator girls complete sweep of Eagles

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Gator girls complete sweep of Eagles

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on September 10, 2004 1:57 PM

Experience won out.

Spring Creek's girls tennis team -- with five seniors and one junior in their lineup -- battled through a trio of underclassmen Rosewood challengers in the bottom three singles spots and claimed a 6-3 win at Walnut Creek on Thursday.

The Gators' Sarah Bragg, Kelly Murphy and Cynthia Breault came away with straight set wins -- each picking up key points in games down the stretch under the humid conditions.

"Rosewood was really improved at four, five and six. Those girls are young, but you can tell they have gotten a lot better," Spring Creek coach Robert Jones said. "Our senior leadership showed through and they won games when they had to win.

"This match-up makes both of us better ... having to play each other."

The win improved Spring Creek (8-1 overall) to 7-1 in the Classes 2-A/1-A Eastern Plains/ Carolina Conference as the Gators posted their fifth straight win over the Eagles. Spring Creek, the defending eastern regional champs, controls first place among 1-A opponents in the conference.

Rosewood (6-4 overall) is currently in second place and fell to 5-4 in conference play.

"I think the experience they have makes a big difference in a match like we had today," Rosewood coach Bert Perkins said. "When everything else is equal and they've got the experience, it's hard to overcome that.

"I'm hoping we can keep improving and play Spring Creek again in the playoffs. That's definitely one of our motivating factors."

At the top of the lineup, Rosewood junior Kayce Brantham started the afternoon with an impressive, 6-2, 7-5 win over previously unbeaten Stacy Smith. Brantham took advantage of numerous unforced errors by Smith and remained consistent -- even when Smith looked poised to claim the second set. Smith took a 5-4 lead in the second, only to see Brantham take the final three games.

The tilt was a rematch of the individual singles Carolina Conference final won by Smith in straight sets.

"I just had to be very patient and hit every ball as consistently as possible," Brantham said.

Number two singles saw the Gators' Sarah Warren improve to 9-0 on the season with a 6-1, 6-0 defeat of Leah Smith in the first-ever meeting between the two. Warren battled through a handful of double faults and controlled the pace of the match.

"I played more aggressive than I usually do. My backhand was really working for me today," Warren said. "My grip was messing up and I kept double-faulting. Thankfully, I got through it and was able to win."

Warren also teamed with Smith at number one doubles and easily topped Brantham and Sidney Worrell 8-1 to earn Spring Creek's fifth and decisive win.

Worrell and Melanie Harlow had the most closely contested singles match of the afternoon with the pair dueling for nearly two hours and thirty minutes before the sophomore Worrell claimed a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win over the senior Harlow.

Beneath the lights, the county rivals split the final two doubles contests as the Eagles' Smith and Humphrey won at number two, while Murphy and Breault emerged at number three.

Rosewood hosts Ayden-Grifton next Tuesday, while Spring Creek entertains North Pitt.

"We've got to get a lot better before dual-team starts when we play teams like Topsail and Bear Grass," Jones said. "We know those teams will come ready."

Spring Creek 6, Rosewood 3

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

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