11/06/05 — Falcons fall in state finals

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Falcons fall in state finals

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 6, 2005 2:39 AM

BURLINGTON -- The casual tennis observer reading the final score between Jamestown Ragsdale and Charles B. Aycock might surmise the match held little drama.

That's not entirely true.

The Tigers needed three tiebreakers to defeat the Golden Falcons 6-0 and claim the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A dual-team tennis title Saturday morning. Randleman finished unbeaten in 21 outings en route to its first-ever championship.

Aycock concluded the year 20-2.

"The key (to winning) is you have to play your best tennis," said veteran Aycock coach Luke Vail. "In today's match, I think we had an exceptional effort but (we) still came up short because we were playing a superior team ... a team with a wealth of talent down the line from one through six.

"They were exceptionally strong in those first three spots."

The Golden Falcons, in the 3-A final for the first time since 1997, didn't go down without a fight. Senior Carlyn Claiborne rebounded from a sluggish first-set loss and seized a 5-2 lead in the second set against the Tigers' Catherine Wood.

Wood, a freshman, never lost her composure. She played steady on each point, put pressure on Claiborne when necessary and moved ahead 6-5. Claiborne held serve at 6-6 to force a tiebreaker, which Wood won 7-4.

Third-seeded Nicole Taylor lost three service breaks in the opening set against Tiger freshman Sruthi Cherkur. Taylor prevailed 6-3 in the second set, but Cherkur took the tiebreaker 7-4.

Vail described the Tigers as a "backboard opponent" because they kept everything in play. He said their strategy mirrored the Golden Falcons, who had benefited from consistent play throughout the season.

Taylor agreed.

"You stayed on the court longer and the point wasn't over quick," said Taylor. "They had some good shots ... down the line or cross court. It was frustrating.

"I knew it would be harder to win and accomplish anything against a good team."

Ragsdale freshman Chelsea Chatman split sets with Aycock sophomore Lizzie Sodoma before winning 6-1, 4-6, 7-5.

"I try to tell all of them as the tournament goes on that it's going to get tougher and tougher," said Ragsdale coach Zack Crutchfield, whose team didn't play a dual-team doubles match in the postseason. "You don't overlook anyone. High school tennis is a fight compared to USTA tennis because you're dealing with the crowd, dealing with the theme of representing your team ... different things.

"With three tiebreakers the match could go either way. They stepped up."

Top-seeded Cameron Chatman stopped Aycock junior Raychel Batts 6-0, 6-0. Batts had three service-break opportunities in the first set, but failed to convert them.

Chatman turned in a solid effort against Batts, who hit numerous uncharacteristic unforced errors and couldn't find any rhythm. Fellow Tigers Naadia Crutchfield and Paris Sims each collected a straight-set victory on the Burlington Tennis Center courts.

Vail couldn't have asked for a better effort.

"The final score is a little deceptive as to how the match was," said Vail. "The girls left everything out on the court and the effort was exemplary. We went to three tiebreaks and we know that Ragsdale didn't win it easy. They had to work for it.

"Our girls have had an exceptional season."

Aycock is the third girls team in the last four years to represent Wayne County in the dual-team finals. Rosewood lost to Hendersonville in 2002, while Spring Creek fell to Siler City-Jordan Matthews in 2003.

The Golden Falcons are 1-3 all-time in dual-team finals, including runner-up finishes on the 1-A/2-A level in 1995 and 96.

"(Friday) night we were so scared and couldn't sleep, but we were excited to be here," said Taylor. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity. You either have a great team or you don't have a great team.

"We had a great team this year and I think we did really good."

2005 N.C. High School

Athletic Association Class 3-A

Dual-Team Championship

(at Burlington Tennis Center)

Jamestown Ragsdale 6

Charles B. Aycock 0

Singles -- No. 1 Cameron Chatman (R) d. Raychel Batts 6-0, 6-0; No. 2 Catherine Wood (R) d. Carlyn Claiborne 6-1, 7-6 (4); No. 3 Sruthi Cherkur (R) d. Nicole Taylor 6-0, 3-6, 7-4; No. 5 Chelsea Chatman (R) d. Lizzie Sodoma 6-1, 4-6, 7-5; No. 6 Paris Sims (R) d. Kristen Prosser 6-3, 6-2.

Doubles -- Not contested.