11/04/05 — Greene collects eighth consecutive eastern regional crown

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Greene collects eighth consecutive eastern regional crown

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on November 4, 2005 2:01 PM

SNOW HILL -- Veteran Greene Central girl's tennis coach Donald Clark admits he has had more talented teams than this year's squad.

But he noticed something special about the senior-laden 2005 Rams during non-conference play. They had enormous heart and possessed the ability to win close matches against good competition.

For the second time in as many games, that passion and toughness shined through as the Rams survived a 3-3 split in singles against Edenton Holmes, then swept all three doubles matches for a 6-3 win at the Snow Hill Tennis Complex.

On Tuesday, Greene Central edged state-power Cardinal Gibbons 5-4. Before these last two dual-team matches, no team had ever taken more than one match from the Rams during their eight-year run.

"It's never been this tough. Holmes played outstanding and they came in here much more ready to play," Clark said. "I can't fault my girls, though. I've had teams that were more talented than this, but there's something special about this group.

"They play better under pressure than any team I've coached."

The hard-fought victory sends Greene Central (24-1) to the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 2-A dual-team state championship for the eighth straight year. The Rams will seek an elusive state title against the winner of Salisbury and Wilkes Central on Saturday at the Burlington Tennis Center.

"I'm hoping the eighth time is the charm," Clark said with a smile.

Holmes finished the season with a 19-2 mark with both losses coming to Greene Central. The Rams defeated the Aces 8-1 earlier this season and has now defeated Holmes the last four years in the eastern regional final.

Thursday's win wouldn't come near as easy.

Three of the six singles matches went to a third-set tiebreaker as Greene Central's Christi Murphy, one of five Ram seniors, claiming her team's lone win among those contests. Murphy topped Katie Parrish 6-3, 3-6, 10-8 -- rallying back from behind to win the tie-breaker.

"We were a wide-eyed when we played them earlier in the season," Holmes coach Alan Hornthal said. "We've improved a lot since then. We were a couple of game points away from being up 4-2 going into doubles."

Holmes' Abby Richmond defeated Meredith Rouse at No. 1 singles 6-7 (1), 6-2, 8-6; while teammate Collen Potocki emerged with a 7-5, 4-6, 7-3 win at No. 6 over Elizabeth Cooper.

Greene Central took No. 3 and No. 5 singles in straight sets with Ashley Harrell and Brittany Horton claiming victories over Ashley Jackson and Caroline Small, respectively.

The Aces' Lauren Williams defeated Michelle Jernigan 6-2, 6-0 at No. 5.

As a sunny, fall afternoon turned into a chilly evening, all eyes turned to the doubles matches.

The Rams' No. 2 combination of Murphy-Harrell, the 2-A doubles state runner-up last Saturday, played consistently and dispatched Parrish-Williams 10-5.

"We had a team win tonight. We've had two tough matches in a row, but we pulled together and won," Murphy said.

No. 1 and No. 3 doubles proved much more tightly contested.

At No. 1, Rouse and Horton, who reached the 2-A doubles final four, had leads of 5-2 and 8-5 against Richmond and Small, only to see the Holmes duo battle back to cut it to 6-5 and 9-8.

After several long, gut-wrenching rallies, Rouse-Horton held on for an 11-9 win.

"I'm a doubles player. That's my favorite thing to play," Rouse said. "I knew we needed two more wins to go to the state championship, so I went out and did my best to help pull us through."

Jernigan and Cooper stormed out to an 8-3 lead at No. 3 and withstood Jackson and Potocki 10-7 to finish off the sweep of the doubles matches for the Rams.

Clark admits fatigue and sore feet was clearly a factor after Greene Central's nail-biter against Cardinal Gibbons on Tuesday.

"I don't think it was a lack of effort today, we were just worn out," Clark said. "On Tuesday, we beat one of the best teams in North Carolina and we were tired and blistered. Great teams do what it takes to win when they don't play well."

2005 N.C. High School Athletic Association

Class 2-A Dual-Team Playoffs

(at Snow Hill Tennis Complex)

Singles -- No. 1 Abby Richmond (EH) d. Meredith Rouse 6-7 (1), 6-2, 8-6; No. 2 Christi Murphy (GC) d. Katie Parrish 6-3, 3-6, 10-8; No. 3 Ashley Harrell (GC) d. Ashley Jackson 6-0, 6-1; No. 4 Lauren Williams (EH) d. Michelle Jernigan 6-2, 6-0; No. 5 Brittany Horton (GC) d. Caroline Small 6-1, 6-2; No. 6 Colleen Potocki (EH) d. Elizabeth Cooper 7-5, 4-6, 7-3.

Doubles -- No. 1 Rouse-Horton (GC) d. Richmond-Small 11-9; No. 2 Murphy-Harrell (GC) d. Parrish-Williams 10-5; No. 3 Jernigan-Cooper (GC) d. Jackson-Potocki 10-7.