04/29/05 — Gators live to see another day on tennis court

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Gators live to see another day on tennis court

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 29, 2005 2:01 PM

SEVEN SPRINGS -- "Last chance."

Fourth-year Spring Creek men's tennis coach Robert Jones couldn't have summed up his team's regular-season finale any other way. A loss would eliminate the Gators, for the first time in Jones' tenure, from the Class 1-A dual-team playoffs.

A victory kept Spring Creek alive another day.

James Potts and Brandon Strickland made sure it happened. Each player claimed a crucial three-set victory in singles play and sparked the Gators to a 5-1 decision against Carolina/Eastern Plains 1-A/2-A foe Farmville Central on Thursday afternoon.

Spring Creek (10-7, 10-6 C/EPC) earned a tie with Rosewood for the Carolina Conference's No. 2 berth. Farmville Central is the Carolina's top seed for the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs, which begin May 10.

Jones said the Rosewood match could be played next Monday at Herman Park or on the first day of the playoffs. The Carolina No. 2 representative receives a first-round bye since the Super Six Conference did not sponsor men's tennis this spring.

"Since the Carolina two (team) will have a bye week in the playoffs, I'm going to find out if we can play it the first Tuesday of dual teams," Jones said. "I'm checking with Carolyn Shannonhouse in Chapel Hill to see what is possible. If that doesn't work out, more than likely the match will be at Herman Park.

"Both teams are even, regardless of where we play."

But the third meeting with Rosewood didn't seem possible to Jones. The Gators endured an uncharacteristic mid-season slump, which included three 5-4 losses. They tumbled into the Farmville match on the heels of a three-match losing streak.

Jones didn't mention revenge.

"I told them today is our playoff match. There is no tomorrow," Jones said. "If we lose, we're done. They responded well to that. They pulled together, cheered for each other and that was good to see.

"We just played well today and finally played with a little bit of heart. That's what I've been looking for all year."

Top-seeded Cliff Wilson improved to 15-2 in singles with a 6-2, 6-0 conquest of Ben Adams. Wilson finished regular-season play 7-0 against 1-A opposition and 8-2 against 2-A opponents.

Second-seeded Ricky Galloway escaped a tight opening set and dispatched James Newsome 6-4, 6-1. Meanwhile, Phat Tran turned in a steady 6-4, 6-3 win against David Newton at No. 4.

Potts snapped a four-match skid with a come-from-behind 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 decision against Matt Howard. Howard led 4-3 in the final set before Potts claimed the next three games -- and the win.

"He's going to find his ryhthm," Jones said of Potts, who transferred back to Spring Creek one week ago after attending the N.C. School of Science and Math.

Leading 5-4 on serve in the third set, Strickland worked the Jaguar's Charlie Grey to 30-all. Instead of using a conservative approach and making Grey hit into unforced errors, Strickland removed all the drama.

He served back-to-back aces en route to a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 win.

"Sometimes when it's 30-30, you just want to get that first one in so you don't have to worry about a second serve," Jones said. "He didn't hold back ... just let them rip."

Toko Janashvili claimed Farmville's lone win -- 6-0, 6-1 against Justin Smith.

The doubles matches were not contested.