10/05/05 — Eagles wrap up conference title

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Eagles wrap up conference title

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 5, 2005 2:05 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Before the girls' tennis season began, first-year Rosewood High coach Debbie Bailey held a stenciled foot in her hands. The players stared and waited for Bailey's explanation, which was simple.

Bailey said the team's goal is to "go un-de-feet-ed" in conference play. The team sat quietly, but quickly caught onto their coach's play on words.

Since then, they've been busy painting gold feet -- 11 to be exact -- on the bright purple storage hut outside the tennis courts. Rosewood clinched the Class 1-A Carolina/Super Six regular-season championship with a 9-0 decision over league newcomer North Duplin at Mount Olive College on Tuesday afternoon.

The Eagles (12-1, 11-0 CC) seized the program's first title since 2001 and secured the league's lone berth for the N.C. High School Athletic Association dual-team playoffs, which begin Oct. 18. Rosewood entertains the Tar-Roanoke Conference champion.

Bailey didn't mince words on the short bus ride to the John Neal Walker Tennis Center.

"I told them this was probably the biggest one of the season ... we needed this," she said. "They've done a great job out here on the courts."

Rosewood needed less than 90 minutes to wrap up five singles matches.

Brantham, the reigning Carolina singles champion, started off with a 6-0, 6-0 decision against North Duplin sophomore Brittany Coley. The Eagles' top seed, Brantham earned her seventh shutout of the season and remained unbeaten in 13 outings.

"Kayce is one of those players every coach dreams of having," said Bailey. "At practice, she is the same way she is in a match -- always intense and focused. She's an outstanding player, a real team leader for all the girls.

"She's always encouraging them."

The lone senior in Rosewood's starting lineup, Brantham has yet to taste defeat in 25 sets of play. She's expected to face a test Thursday afternoon against Stacy Smith, who emerged the 2003 Carolina singles champion.

Once Brantham exited the court, her teammates quickly followed suit. Sophomores Missy Bailey (11-1) and Erica Nichols (12-1) each lost just one game in straight-set victories.

Junior Sidney Worrell boosted her record to 13-0 with a 6-1, 6-0 conquest of North Duplin sophomore Rebecca Coates. First-year players Jamie Andrews and Janneke Parrish each collected a straight-set win.

"They're great ... solid all the way down the line," North Duplin coach Kirk Pullen said of the Eagles. "It's difficult to prepare for a team when they've been playing for several years and you've been playing a month.

"(You) just go out there and do your best. That's all you can do."

Brantham-Worrell, Bailey-Nichols and Andrews-Karli Beasley each triumphed in doubles play. The Eagles notched their sixth shutout of the season and conclude regular-season play at home Thursday afternoon against archrival Spring Creek.

North Duplin travels to Ayden-Grifton on Thursday.

While Rosewood owned a decisive advantage in experience and tradition, Pullen heaped nothing but praise on his team. The Rebels have no courts at the school and shared the Mount Olive College facility with Southern Wayne during regular-season play.

Pullen's team also practiced in Faison, where there are just two courts. Pullen replaced those nets and admitted it's difficult to seed a team when he can get just four players on the courts simultaneously.

"None of the girls knew the game from the start and had to learn beginning the last week of August," said Pullen. "They've come a long way and I'm proud of them. Hard to believe we've only been playing a month.

"They've had a real positive attitude and that pleased me."

Notes: The Rebels forfeited the remainder of their match played more than two weeks ago at Rosewood. The Eagles led 4-0 and had four matches in progress before rain suspended play. ... The Carolina/Super Six tournament is scheduled next Tuesday and Wednesday at Herman Park.

Rosewood High 9

North Duplin 0

Singles -- No. 1 Kayce Brantham (RHS) d. Brittany Coley 6-0, 6-0; No. 2 Sidney Worrell (RHS) d. Rebecca Coates 6-1, 6-0; No. 3 Missy Bailey (RHS) d. Jenny Coley 6-0, 6-1; No. 4 Erica Nichols (RHS) d. Janah Best 6-0, 6-1; No. 5 Jamie Andrews (RHS) d. Elizabeth Lane 6-1, 6-1; No. 6 Janneke Parrish (RHS) d. Katie Swinson 6-2, 6-4.

Doubles -- No. 1 Brantham-Worrell (RHS) d. Coates-J. Coley 8-0; No. 2 Bailey-Nichols (RHS) d. Best-Lane 8-1; No. 3 Andrews-Karli Beasley (RHS) d. Kristen Jones-Sarah Jackson 8-0.