11/27/05 — Tennis - Batts queen of area courts

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Tennis - Batts queen of area courts

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 27, 2005 2:21 AM

Dominating players have come and gone while competing for tennis powerhouse Charles B. Aycock in nearly three decades.

However, none have appeared more overpowering than Raychel Batts.

Short in stature, but armed with a potent game, Batts is assaulting the program's individual career records. She emerged unbeaten in regular-season play for the second time in three seasons, and seized her third consecutive N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A eastern regional singles championship.

Batts fashioned a 27-2 record that included inaugural ECC singles crown. She helped the Golden Falcons advance to the NCHSAA dual-team title match for the first time since 1997. C.B. Aycock finished 20-2 with losses to Jamestown Ragsdale in the state finals and Greene Central, which claimed the 2-A championship.

For her efforts, Batts has been named the 2005 News-Argus Girls Tennis Player of the Year award. She also earned the honor as a freshman.

"Raychel truly exemplifies what high school tennis is all about -- self discipline, enthusiasm, working together and having fun playing the game," said veteran Aycock coach Luke Vail, whose program has produced the last three News-Argus players of the year.

During the Golden Falcons' intense-filled and gut-wrenching eastern regional final against Burlington Williams, Batts cheered for her teammates. She did a couple of jumps (ala cheerleading style), pumped a hand in the air and shouted "you can do this!" as the players took a break during changeovers in their respective singles matches.

The animated antics drew smiles.

The Golden Falcons and the Bulldogs battled to a 3-3 draw in singles, which put pressure on each doubles team. Batts and teammate Kristen Prosser dominated their match, and Batts -- again -- became a cheerleader on the sidelines.

She encouraged the tandem of Nicole Taylor-Lizzie Sodoma to shake off misplayed points and get the next one. Each time Taylor-Sodoma hit a winner, Batts clapped and shouted "let's go!"

Once Taylor-Sodoma prevailed and Aycock claimed its first regional title to end a frustrating seven-year drought, Batts grabbed the trophy and headed for the parking lot.

"It's time to go home," said Batts, who jokingly tucked the trophy underneath her sweatshirt.

The players laughed.

While Batts exhibits an infectious and playful attitude off the courts, she's nothing but business-like once the first ball is served in match play. A smart player who has improved every aspect of her game, mainly on the USTA circuit, Batts has been nearly unstoppable.

She's 86-5 in her three-year career with just one regular-season loss as a sophomore to former West Carteret standout Corrine Langston. The other defeats have occurred in the postseason -- either in individual or dual-team competition.

"Raychel has added a strong serve to go along with her powerful groundstrokes," said Vail. "She is continuing to gain more confidence in her net game. She has tremendous work ethic (and) is very dedicated to the game.

"She has the passion and drive necessary to be an outstanding tennis player."