10/20/04 — Topsail takes down Gators

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Topsail takes down Gators

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on October 20, 2004 1:58 PM

SEVEN SPRINGS -- In the past three seasons, Spring Creek's girls tennis team has amassed an impressive record of 48-14 -- winning a Class 1-A eastern regional championship in 2003 with two outright Carolina Conference titles and a share of another one.

The Gators' bid for win number 49 and another deep playoff push fell just short as Hamp-stead Topsail emerged with a 5-4 win in the first round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association dual-team playoffs at the Spring Creek Tennis Complex on Tuesday afternoon.

The Pirates, the No. 1 seed from the Coastal Plains Conference, await the winner of Bear Grass and Gates County in the second round. The Gators concluded the season 14-5.

All seniors -- Sarah Warren, Melanie Harlow, Cynthia Breault, Sarah Bragg and Kelly Murphy played important roles during the Gators' run over the last three years, helping build the young high school's tennis program.

"They started together and didn't win a match their freshman year. It's put this school on the map as a new school," Spring Creek coach Robert Jones said. "Maybe we will find some coming up who will continue this on.

"It's going to be tough to replace them. They fought their guts out today."

Tuesday's clash featured a battle of top-seeded teams that lived up to the billing. Ultimately, the match came down to a pair of doubles contests after the Gators and Pirates won three singles matches each.

Both number one and number three doubles proved to be tightly contested, even matchups.

In a tilt between two regional-qualifying doubles teams, Warren and Stacy Smith battled Brandy Ather and Kaitlen Powers. Warren and Smith took early leads of 2-1 and 3-2, before seeing their opponent rally back to lead as much as 6-3. The see-saw battle continued into the late stages as the Gator combo never allowed the Pirates to pull away.

Warren-Smith got as close as 8-7 and 9-8, but eventually fell 10-8 in only their fourth loss as a doubles team this season.

"We knew what we had to do. We knew they were really balanced and no different in two-through-six," Jones said. "They played hard in doubles, but I think they got caught up in playing their (Ather-Powers) game and made too many mistakes.

"They got behind, and they couldn't quite get that break back."

Moments after seeing their teammates fall, Spring Creek's number three team of Cynthia Breault and Sarah Bragg rallied to claim a hard-fought, 11-10 (7-5) victory over Morgan McGee and Kylie Moeller.

Topsail's number two combination, Martha Morris and Brittany Cockreil, easily won at number two, 10-2.

Spring Creek's Warren and Smith took care of business at number one and two singles, respectively, each winning in straight sets. Warren finished her singles career with a whopping, 57-7 mark by dropping McGee 6-0, 6-0. Stacy Smith -- the Gators' lone junior in the starting lineup -- rolled past Cockreil 6-4, 6-2.

Warren concluded the season at 16-2 in singles, while Smith went 13-5.

Then, Topsail displayed its strength and power in the middle and bottom.

Ather, Powers and Morris cruised in spots three-through-six with straight-set wins. The trio of Pirates lost just one game between them, often over-powering their opponent.

"They are 'Greene Central-like' in spots three-through-six," Jones said. "They hit the ball with a lot of pace ... powerful serving and powerful ground strokes."

After dropping the first set to Kylie Moeller, Spring Creek's Kelly Murphy bounced back with consistent play and eventually took the second set 6-4, before claiming the tie-breaker 7-2. With the five singles matches finished in front of them, Murphy's win over Moeller proved to be key -- setting the stage for the nail-biting doubles finish.

Warren and Smith will take a 12-4 doubles record into the 1-A individual regionals on Friday at Herman Park. Bragg (13-6) will participate in singles.

2004 N.C. High School

Athletic Association Class 1-A

Dual-Team Tennis Playoffs

(at Spring Creek Tennis Complex)

Hampstead Topsail 5,

Spring Creek 4

Singles -- No. 1 Sarah Warren (SC) d. Morgan McGee 6-0, 6-0; No. 2 Stacy Smith (SC) d. Brittany Cockreil 6-4, 6-2; No. 3 Brandy Ather (THS) d. Melanie Harlow 6-0, 6-0; No. 4 Kaitlen Powers (THS) d. Cynthia Breault 6-1, 6-0; No. 5 Martha Morris (THS) d. Sarah Bragg 6-0, 6-0; No. 6 Kelly Murphy (SC) d. Kylie Moeller 3-6, 6-4 (7-2).

Doubles -- No. 1 Ather-Powers (THS) d. Warren-Smith 10-8; No. 2 Morris-Cockreil (THS) d. Harlow-Murphy 10-2; No. 3 Breault-Bragg (SC) d. McGee-Moeller 11-10 (7-5).