Elite 8 bound - Aycock blanks Rocky Mount
By Steve Roush
Published in Sports on October 26, 2005 2:22 PM
PIKEVILLE -- Two down, three to go.
After opening the state tournament with a 6-0 drubbing of West Carteret last week, the Charles B. Aycock tennis team cruised into the Elite Eight with a 6-0 triumph over Rocky Mount on Tuesday evening.
"We're excited," said senior Nicole Taylor (17-2), who beat the Gryphons' Megan Fish (8-8) 7-5, 6-2 in third singles in a match that took two hours, five minutes to play. "It's great to be back in the Elite Eight, but we want to go a lot further."
Charles B. Aycock second singles player Carlyn Claiborne returns a shot during Tuesday's state playoffs match against Rocky Mount. The Golden Falcons won the contest to advance to the Elite Eight. Show below is Aycock's Laine Purcell.
The Golden Falcons made a run to the Final Four last season, and judging by what he's seen, coach Luke Vail thinks his squad can take the next step.
"I'm proud of the effort from everybody," he said. "Right now, I'm seeing things coaches like to see. Today, we were much sharper and did a better job of finishing at the net. Now that we're in the Elite Eight, we have to challenge ourselves to raise our level of play -- every round of competition gets even tougher."
Not only did the competition stiffen on Tuesday, so did the weather.
After playing on a bright, sunny day with temperatures in the low 80s against West Carteret, Mother Nature brought in unseasonably cold temperatures with wind gusts up to 35 mph in Round 2.
"The wind had an effect," said fourth singles player Laine Purcell, who played the longest match of the day at two hours, 10 minutes.
Purcell (17-3) rallied in the third set to beat Emily Hughes (9-7) in a tiebreaker, 6-4, 2-6, 8-6.
"It was a very long match," Purcell said. "I'm pretty sure it was my longest one of the year. Some of the points seemed like they lasted like five minutes."
But not all the matches were marathons.
In first singles, Raychel Batts (21-0) easily dispatched Rocky Mount's Courtney Wheeless (6-10), 6-0, 6-0.; second singles player Carlyn Claiborne (18-1) took care of Ashley Pearsall (11-5) 6-2, 6-1; Lizzie Sodoma (15-4) cruised past Katie Craig (7-9) 6-0, 6-2 in fifth singles; and Kristen Prosser (12-2) took care of Sarah Johnson (9-6) 6-3, 6-0 in sixth singles.
Doubles were not contested.
"In a few cases today, we started slow and turned it around and played well in the second set," Vail said. "I think in the first set, the problem was adjusting to the wind. Raychel, however, came out very sharp, was on top of her game and dominated. Midway through the first set, Carlyn took over and controlled the tempo."
Vail said he was pleased with the way Taylor and Purcell played in their long matches.
"Nicole was down 3-4 in the first set and turned it on," he said. "She has exceptional mental toughness. She raised her level of play and did a much better job of hitting her passing shots.
"Laine's was the match of the day," Vail continued. "She played a ton of long point and that took her out of her game -- but she stepped up and used her experience to win the third set."
The Falcons improved to 18-1 -- having won 15 matches in a row -- as a team this season and will take on Wilson Fike at Mount Olive College next Tuesday. Rocky Mount finishes its season at 9-8.
"It was a good win," Vail said. "I'm proud of the team and proud to be back in the Elite Eight."
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