10/20/04 — Aycock opens up big

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Aycock opens up big

By David Williams
Published in Sports on October 20, 2004 1:58 PM

PIKEVILLE -- South Johnston has had a strong tennis season, rolling to a 14-3 record and a No. 3 playoff seeding from the Class 3-A Big Eight South Conference.

But the Trojans' season ended in just under three hours Tuesday night at the Charles B. Aycock courts -- a place where a lot of teams have ended their playoff runs over the years.

Carlyn Claiborne

News-Argus/Dennis Hill

Charles B. Aycock's Carlyn Claiborne reaches for a return during her doubles match.

The Golden Falcons took the Trojans out of the playoffs with a 9-0 sweep that featured solid, focused play from the Eastern Carolina Conference dual-team champions -- something coach Luke Vail insisted of his players before the match.

"From the opening round, we need focused intensity and energy, and we got that," said Vail. "We played our game to the highest level."

Aycock, whose amazing conference win streak was extended to 282 this season and has not been broken since it began in 1979, proved this season's team deserves a place along with the best of the past.

The top three seeds -- Raychel Batts, Leslie Sasser and Carlyn Claiborne -- blew their opponents away with powerful ground strokes and big-bang returns.

Batts won 6-0, 6-0 over Allison Hicks, who was 16-1 coming into the match. It was Batts' 22nd victory of the year. Sasser kept her unbeaten streak intact with her 21st victory, a 6-0, 6-0 blanking of Melissa Stephenson. Claiborne shut out Annah Schwartz 6-0, 6-0 to move to 20-1.

"Our top three are awfully dominant," said Vail. "South Johnston is a good team and they play a sound strategy to keep a good defense and keep the ball in play. But our girls are offensive-minded, and playing defensive won't stand up to the big hitting they do."

In the lower seeds, Aycock continued its dominance. Nicole Taylor, Laine Purcell and Hadley Peacock were all straight-set winners and all give their opponents little time to fight back into their matches.

"Nicole's girl tested her, but all three of the 4-5-6 seeds stepped up well," Vail said. "Laine and Hadley played their best games of the year."

In doubles, Sasser and Claiborne had not trouble topping Hicks and Auman 8-1 for their 21st win without a loss. Purcell and Peacock beat Purvis and Ashley Lane 8-1; and Batts and Taylor beat Stephenson and Schwartz 8-2 to complete the sweep.

"Sometimes in dual teams, doubles will decide who advances," said Vail. "We will be working on overheads, volleys and putting the ball away, because you need those shots in doubles a lot."

For now, Vail will prepare four of his players to compete in the N.C. High School Athletic Association's 3-A eastern regional individual tournament, to be played at Barton College beginning Friday. Batts and Taylor will be in the singles draw, while Sasser and Claiborne will compete in doubles. Batts is the defending eastern regional champion.

The Falcons will take on Wilson Hunt, which knocked off West Brunswick in its first-round match, next Tuesday afternoon. Aycock will host the match, which should be the last match played at Pikeville this season. Vail said that should Aycock continue in the playoffs, they will host opponents at the John Neal Walker Tennis Center on the campus of Mount Olive College.

"We are where we needed to be," he said. "We've got to get sharper as we progress."

2004 N.C. High School

Athletic Association Class 3-A

Dual-Team Tennis Playoffs

(at C.B. Aycock HS, Pikeville)

Singles -- No. 1 Raychel Batts (CBA) d. Allison Hicks 6-0, 6-0. No. 2 Leslie Sasser (CBA) d. Melissa Stephenson 6-0, 6-0. No. 3 Carlyn Claiborne (CBA) d. Annah Schwartz 6-0, 6-0. No. 4 Nicole Taylor (CBA) d. Katherine Auman 6-0, 6-3. No. 5 Laine Purcell (CBA) d. Emily Purvis 6-1, 6-1. No. 6 Hadley Peacock (CBA) d. Noelle Warren 6-2, 6-2.

Doubles -- No. 1 Sasser-Claiborne (CBA) d. Hicks-Auman 8-1. No. 2 Batts-Taylor (CBA) d. Stephenson-Schwartz 8-2. No. 3 Purcell-Peacock (CBA) d. Purvis-Ashley Lane 8-1.