05/05/05 — Historic day for E. Wayne tennis team

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Historic day for E. Wayne tennis team

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 5, 2005 1:58 PM

Concerned about her team's mental attitude after a tough season-ending loss against county rival Charles B. Aycock, veteran Eastern Wayne men's tennis coach Nancy Dawson got her answer early Wednesday afternoon.

Focused and determined on the key points, the Warriors accomplished their mission in the season-ending Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference tournament. They're taking six qualifiers -- a first in program history -- to the N.C. High School Athletic Association eastern regionals next week in Wilson.

"I thought we really would get in the entire team," said a smiling Dawson. "I didn't think it would be much of a problem and I'm glad the way the draw worked out because that helped us. I'm very satisfied."

Coaches from the seven schools entered a combined 23 singles players and just 11 doubles combinations. The overload in singles prevented the Warriors' Drew Ziccardi and Jared Stone -- each a top-four seed -- from meeting each other in either the second or quarterfinal round.

They were placed in opposite halves of the bracket and benefited from first-round byes.

Ziccardi needed just one match to qualify for the regionals. The junior eliminated West Carteret's George Dawkins 6-1, 6-0.

Meanwhile, Stone advanced to the regionals in strange fashion. He defeated West Craven's Chris Saul 6-1, 6-0 in the opening round. The junior, who plays No. 1 for the Warriors during dual-team competition, upended Kinston's Jamison Smith 6-3 in the first set of their quarterfinal match. Smith trailed 3-0 in the second set and forfeited from the tournament.

"I couldn't watch my players much, but thanks to Doc (McConnaghy) and my parents because they helped me out," said Dawson, who also served as the tournament director. "I never take anything for granted, but I felt like Jared was on his own. I told him that if he needed me to send someone after me.

"Drew and Jared played wonderful ... could have beaten anybody they played today. They were tournament ready and took care of business. That's what it's about."

Dawson saved some praise for the doubles of Ben Ziccardi-Alex Bryant.

A year ago, the Warrior duo toiled through the consolation bracket and qualified for the regionals in their final match. This time, they left little doubt with a 6-3, 6-0 conquest of South Central's Frank Quinto-Graham Muron. They followed that up with a 6-2, 6-2 decision against

Washington's Neil Patrick-Nathan Worsley.

"I'm really proud of Ben and Alex," Dawson said. "After the two hard matches this week, I didn't want them to go there (in the consolation rounds) and they didn't. This time they qualified on their own instead of going to a consolation match. I think that shows maturity on their part."

The Jackson duo of Drew and Taylor also earned a regional berth. The twosome opened play with a shutout of South Central's Mattis Vaughn-Robert Hughes. They added a 6-4, 6-2 win against Aycock's Sean Kelly-David Williams and helped avenged their team's dual-match loss 24 hours earlier in Pikeville.

The Aycock victory denied Eastern Wayne a share of the ECC regular-season title.

Meanwhile, the Golden Falcons' Danny Fairchild-Brandon Howard are returning to the regionals and will be joined by Kelly-Williams.

Fairchild-Howard (14-1) clinched a regional berth with a 6-0, 6-0 decision against South Central's Eric Warren-Will Hiebert. Kelly-Williams (11-4) received a bye before falling to Jackson-Jackson in their only match of the day.

"I thought Danny and Brandon played really well," said Aycock coach Luke Vail. "Today was just a formality for them to qualify. They're playing well right now and I hope they can boost their level of play next week. The good thing for us is we've got a week to practice and work on doubles.

"Sean and David did not play well today. It just seemed like we were inconsistent ... missed quite a few volleys and overheads, and had a lot of return of serve errors. They used up a lot of energy in the match yesterday (Tuesday) against Eastern Wayne."

The Golden Falcons' Blake Cooper and Corey Walker battled in the singles draw. Cooper ousted West Craven's Mike Onorato 6-4, 6-2 and lost to West Carteret's Billy Coulter 6-0, 6-3 in the regional qualifying round. Walker fell to Washington's Craig Davis 6-0, 6-1 in the first round.

"Blake gave us a really nice effort in singles today," Vail said. "In his first match, he played really consistent, but was out-manned against a good player in the second match. He's a determined guy and has laid the groundwork for his future in tennis."

Southern Wayne's Sterling Blackmon, John Stedman and Jon Hartley each stumbled in their opening-round singles match.

Play concluded once the regional entrants had been determined. Seven singles and seven doubles teams will represent the ECC in next weekend's single-elimination tournament in Wilson. The top-four finishers in regional play advance to the state finals May 20-21 in Burlington.