10/27/04 — Golden Falcons take charge in dual-team win

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Golden Falcons take charge in dual-team win

By David Williams
Published in Sports on October 27, 2004 1:56 PM

PIKEVILLE -- Charles B. Aycock's Leslie Sasser strolled off the court around 40 minutes after she began her match against Wilson Hunt's Bethany Vaughn, taking a quick 6-0, 6-0 win over her once-beaten Warrior competitor.

Carlyn Claiborne, unbeaten on the season, took nearly an hour and a half to dispatch Anne Huitt Davis 6-3, 6-3.

Carlyn Claiborne

News-Argus/Dennis Hill

Charles B. Aycock's Carlyn Claiborne returns a shot to her opponent during Tuesday's dual-team playoff match against Wilson Hunt.

But whether the matches went quickly or slowly, there was little doubt who would prevail.

The Golden Falcons moved on in the N.C. High School Athletic Association's Class 3-A dual team playoffs Tuesday with a 6-0 sweep of Hunt, the No. 2 seed from the Big Eight South. The victory advanced Aycock into Tuesday's third round against Wilson Fike at the John Neal Walker Tennis Center on the campus of Mount Olive College.

The win also assured Aycock coach Luke Vail of the program's third straight 20-win season and keeps alive a streak of Final Eight appearances that reaches back to 1995.

The Falcons did as expected, dominating the early matches as the players used strong baseline games and ever-improving power to put their opponents on the defensive.

"This time of the year you want to see consistency and solid strategy, and today I thought we had a good combination of that," said Vail. "It was good to see our players thinking about coming to the net, placing the ball in the right place and going for the put-away shot rather than trying to keep the ball on the court. Tactically, we are starting to play the kind of tennis you have to play in order to have the opportunity to advance to the next level."

While Sasser demolished Davis, top seed Raychel Batts wasted few strokes to take down previously unbeaten Andrea Michalak 6-2, 6-1. At No. 3, Claiborne pumped up her game in the second set by utilizing a stinging forehand that fell in for winners. Nicole Taylor drew praise from Vail for her improving serve and the mix of drop shots she used in a 6-2, 6-4 win over Alison Edge.

"Carlyn, in the second set, played much better tennis," Vail said. "She took some offensive shots off her forehand side in the second set. She has that big forehand and she needs to use it. She got tactically into the flow of the match as she went on."

Fifth-seeded Laine Purcell was strong in her 6-0, 6-1 win over Rainey Wallace. Six-seed Hadley Peacock, playing wit the seeded players for just three weeks, came on to knock out Anna Strader 6-4, 6-3.

"Laine had a good solid outing at five, and Hadley is playing some of her best tennis," Vail said.

Doubles was not contested after Aycock sealed the win in the singles competition.

After an injury forced Vail to juggle the lineup, this year's team has responded positively.

"A lot of things haven't come easy this year," he said. "But the doubles are in sync -- everybody is working with the right partner. Next round, we've got to be able to hit more winners. We have to get more first serves in and be more aggressive at the net."

Next up for the Falcons is a weekend trip to Burlington for the state individual tournament. Batts in singles, and the team of Sasser and Claiborne in doubles, will take part after securing regional championships last week.

Then comes the dual-team competition, and the players know the history -- six trips to the Final Four, three championship matches, and one state title.

"Last year, a lot of the players thought we went out one round too early," Vail said. "We want to get back to that east final, because once you get to the final four anything can happen."

N.C. High School Athletic Association

Class 3-A dual team tennis

at Charles B. Aycock High School

Singles -- No. 1 Raychel Batts (CBA) d. Andrea Michalak 6-2, 6-1. No. 2 Leslie Sasser (CBA) d. Bethany Vaughn 6-0, 6-0. No. 3 Carlyn Claiborne (CBA) d, Anne Huitt Davis 6-3, 6-3. No. 4 Nicole Taylor (CBA) d. Alison Edge 6-2, 6-4. No. 5 Laine Purcell (CBA) d. Rainey Wallace 6-0, 6-1. No, 6 Hadley Peacock (CBA) d. Anna Strader 6-4, 6-3.

Doubles -- was not contested.