04/20/05 — Unforced errors too much for Golden Falcons

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Unforced errors too much for Golden Falcons

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 20, 2005 1:57 PM

PIKEVILLE -- No room for unforced errors.

The Charles B. Aycock men's tennis team learned that valuable lesson Tuesday afternoon in a 5-1 loss against West Carteret. The visiting Patriots prevailed in three of four singles matches determined by a third-set tiebreaker, and claimed their 10th victory in Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference play.

West Carteret (11-1) remained tied with a much-improved Eastern Wayne squad and Washington atop the ECC standings.

"Tiebreakers can go either way and it's very unusual that you lose three in one match," veteran Aycock coach Luke Vail said. "It kind of sends a message that one of the things we've got to do a better job on is our mental toughness.

"It wasn't about their winners, but our errors that cost us the tiebreaks. You don't want to beat yourself in a tiebreaker."

The Patriots played patient and executed on the crucial points in the seven-point tiebreakers. They kept their unforced errors to a minimum and quickly seized momentum when the Golden Falcons miscued in their game.

Vail's team has struggled throughout the season in tie-breaking sets. Aycock has a 7-10 record combined in individual singles and doubles matches decided by tiebreakers.

"I thought the effort was real good," Vail said.

The top three singles matches ended in tiebreakers.

West Carteret's Tim Wilkerson outlasted third-seeded Sean Kelly 6-1, 4-6, 7-2. Second-seeded Billy Rawls stopped Brandon Howard 6-2, 4-6, 7-4. Top-seeded Wes Horne rebounded from a disastrous opening set to defeat Danny Fairchild 6-0, 0-6, 7-3.

Fairchild played a near-flawless first set. He moved the ball from corner to corner and benefited from Horne's numerous unforced errors.

Horne recovered and returned the favor in the second set. He cut down on the unforced errors and didn't lose a game on serve.

"I didn't quite have my head in it the first set," Horne said. "The second set, I was playing smarter."

Horne jumped out to leads of 2-0 and 3-2 in the tiebreaker. Fairchild pulled within 4-3 on a blistering, two-handed backhand down the line. Horne answered with three consecutive points to win 7-3 and snapped Fairchild's modest two-match win streak.

Vail agreed the turning point was unforced errors, but also said conditioning might have factored into the outcome. Players battled for two-plus hours in 80-degree temperatures.

"Danny let his consistency slip away in the second set and it carried over into the tiebreaker. He played a phenomenal first set," Vail said. "But it's like playing two halves in basketball. You've still got to play the second half and if you've got the momentum rolling your way, you've got to keep it going.

"The worst thing that can happen to you is losing the first game of the second set."

The same scenario occurred in Howard's match as well. Once that happened, things started slipping away for the Golden Falcons' top two seeds. Both exited with 7-5 records in singles play.

The Patriots' Billy Coulter rallied from an early second-set deficit to defeat David Williams 6-3, 6-4.

Fifth-seeded Frank Gainey seized consecutive games against Corey Walker, who regained his composure midway through the second set. Walker closed within 4-3 before Gainey wrapped up the overall match with a 6-0, 6-3 decision.

Aycock's Blake Cooper stumbled in the opening set against sixth-seeded George Dawkins. After taking the second set, a red-faced Cooper (5-7) sipped water as he discussed the tie-breaking strategy with Vail.

Cooper followed Vail's instructions and dominated Dawkins in the tiebreaker, which led to a 3-6, 6-3, 7-3 victory.

"The day's extremely hot and conditioning may have played a role in the tiebreakers," Vail said. "Maybe we need to be in better shape than we are right now."

The Golden Falcons (6-6, 4-5 ECC) entertain Southern Nash at 4 p.m. today.