11/04/05 — State finals-bound - Aycock earns first-ever trip to 3-A title match

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State finals-bound - Aycock earns first-ever trip to 3-A title match

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 4, 2005 2:02 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Another comeback?

No problem.

Nearly three weeks ago, Charles B. Aycock doubles partners Nicole Taylor and Lizzie Sodoma rallied twice from late-set deficits and claimed the eastern regional championship.

On Thursday evening, the duo battled from behind again and erased nearly 10 years of frustration experienced by former and current Golden Falcon players. Taylor-Sodoma's dramatic 11-10 (7-2) conquest of Burlington Williams' Mary Carol Swajkoski-Carter Laney capped a thrilling 5-4 victory in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A eastern regional dual-team final.

C.B. Aycock (20-1) seized its first regional championship -- and fourth overall -- since 1997. The Golden Falcons oppose unbeaten Jamestown Ragsdale (20-0) for the state title Saturday morning. Match time is 9 a.m. at the Burlington Tennis Center.

"It was really nerve racking," said a grinning Taylor, one of three seniors who played on regional runner-up teams in 2002 and 2004.

And memorable.

Taylor-Sodoma (20-2) struggled with communication and allowed Swajkoski-Laney to dominate net play. The Williams duo attacked balls early, converted several drop shots into points and claimed a 5-2 lead.

Taylor-Sodoma never wavered.

"We knew this was our match," said Sodoma, a junior.

Swajkoski-Laney continued hitting winners, but Taylor-Sodoma answered with winners of their own. Before long, the Golden Falcons took a 6-5 lead as doubles play concluded on the other John Neal Walker Tennis Center courts.

Taylor-Sodoma moved ahead 8-6 in games and took a 30-0 lead on serve. Swajkoski-Laney played steady and took the game to pull within 8-7. The teams traded service games before Swajkoski-Laney moved in front 10-9.

Again, Taylor-Sodoma rallied. Staying near the baseline, the duo used the angles when necessary and hit a couple of winners down the line. Swajkoski-Laney fell victim to unforced errors, which led to a 10-10 tie.

"We just use the same strategy every match," said Taylor. "When we get back in it, we're always communicating and backing each other. This was like no other match we've ever played."

Taylor-Sodoma grabbed the first five points in the decisive 12-point tiebreaker. Swajkoski-Laney closed the gap to 5-2, but lost momentum when they couldn't return Sodoma's short volley.

The teams traded volleys on the next point before the Bulldogs hit a deep shot past the baseline. Taylor and Sodoma dropped their racquets, hugged and celebrated a long-awaited victory with their teammates.

"In 27 years of coaching tennis, that was the probably the most-exciting match I've ever been a part of," said Aycock coach Luke Vail. "I was really proud of our players because I think they showed a tremendous amount of character and courage.

"Nicole and Lizzie just refused to give up. We knew it was going to be a tough match and at this level, you expect it to be."

The Golden Falcons, who were making their ninth regional appearance in the last 11 years, gained a 3-3 split in singles.

Top-seeded Raychel Batts improved to 27-1 with a 6-2, 6-1 triumph over Margaret Kernodle. Taylor, at the No. 3 slot, dumped Mollie Lambert 7-5, 6-2. Sophomore Kristen Prosser trailed 4-1 in the third-set tiebreaker but escaped Laney 3-6, 6-1, 8-6.

Batts-Prosser, who began playing doubles in the postseason, dominated Lambert-Megan Colonel 10-2.

"We had some singles matches that could have went either way. We had some nice efforts and Carlyn (Claiborne) and Laine's (Purcell) matches were tough to lose," said Vail. "Kristen did an excellent job of coming from behind. She really stepped up today and played big for us. She and Raychel played outstanding in doubles.

"I was real proud of the effort because everybody left everything out on the court."