05/18/05 — Hawks' inner fight pays off

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Hawks' inner fight pays off

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 18, 2005 1:47 PM

SNOW HILL -- The self-confidence and inner fight North Lenoir's men's tennis has displayed at home this season continued Tuesday afternoon.

The senior-laden Hawks controlled the singles matches and eliminated Fairmont 5-2 from the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 2-A dual-team playoffs. North Lenoir emerged victorious in a home playoff contest for just the second time since 2000 and earned its first-ever trip to the third round -- or eastern semifinals.

The Hawks (16-3) will face either unbeaten Gray's Creek or Croatan on the road next Tuesday afternoon.

Fairmont concluded its season 9-3.

"We played really strong in the four singles matches that we won convincingly," first-year North Lenoir coach Courtney Harrell said. "I think we played singles well. No one really stood out today. The whole team had a solid performance."

One of four seniors in the starting lineup, Jared O'dell played consistent throughout his straight-set triumph at No. 2 singles. O'dell blitzed Bryan Gerald 6-0 in the opening set. He split games at 2-1 and 5-2 in the second set.

O'dell ripped a cross-court winner and a deep baseline shot as he closed out the match on his serve.

Teammates Alex Mills and Clinton O'dell, Jared's younger brother, followed suit in their respective matches. Mills dispatched Clay Bullock 6-1, 6-2 at the No. 1 slot. O'dell, a freshman, collected a 6-1, 6-1 decision against Stephen Love in the No. 6 spot.

Fourth-seeded James Parker seized his team-leading 19th singles victory 6-1, 6-3 against Fairmont junior Luke McIntyre.

The visiting Tornadoes, who were making their first-ever postseason appearance in school history, prevailed at Nos. 3 and 4 in singles. Senior Scott Floyd stopped Jerry Mills 6-2, 6-1. Travis Hunt, also a senior, rallied from 5-4 deficits in each set to turn back Ryan Ipock 7-6 (5), 7-5.

"They are two seniors who've been with me for four years who actually learned the game of tennis," Fairmont coach Travis Kemp said of Floyd and Hunt. "I can't enough about Scott. (As a freshman) he had terrible ground strokes, but this guy became a student of the game. He's done real well with his mental attitude.

"Travis, that's how he has won his matches all year. He's just consistent ... doesn't get rattled."

As the Ipock-Hunt match surpassed the 90-minute mark, the Hawks' No. 1 doubles of Alex Mills-Jared O'dell returned to the court. They cruised to a 4-1 lead, only to see Bullock-Gerald pull within 5-4.

Harrell had a short chat with them after the changeover and the duo picked up speed. Leading 9-4, but serving at deuce in the final game, Mills uncorked three consecutive aces to clinch the match.

"Jared and Alex have been strong all year together," Harrell said. "I expected them to take care of business and they went out there, and did it."

Mills-O'dell improved to 15-4 and continue play Friday morning in the NCHSAA Individual Championships at the Cary Tennis Center.

Notes: The Hawks have not lost a dual match since Apr. 12 against Rosewood. ... Fairmont's all-time playoff record is 1-1. ... North Lenoir is 3-3 in the postseason since 2000 and 2-1 at home.