03/24/06 — Eastern Wayne netters leave jitters to coach, dominate Hunt

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Eastern Wayne netters leave jitters to coach, dominate Hunt

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 24, 2006 1:47 PM

Even with four returning starters in the lineup, veteran Eastern Wayne men's tennis coach Nancy Dawson had a worrisome case of the jitters Thursday afternoon.

Dawson's squad opened its Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference season against Wilson Hunt, a perennial power which has claimed numerous regular-season titles on the 4-A and 3-A levels, and played for several eastern regional dual-team championships. Dawson knew of the program's reputation and wondered if Hunt's impressive resume just might ... might ... intimidate her team.

It's a good thing the players didn't share Dawson's concerns. Eastern Wayne (4-2) showed no awe toward the tradition-rich program and cruised to a 9-0 victory on the Wayne Community College courts.

"I tell them to just let me have all the nerves and for them to just play," said Dawson. "We had played Fike, but he (coach Lee Matthews) told me there had been a big drop (at Hunt). What worried me was the bottom of my lineup ... two inexperienced players at number and five and six.

"We don't have the depth we had last year. I just wanted them to play the very best they could play."

Play well they did.

The top three seeds -- Drew Ziccardi, Jared Stone and Drew Jackson -- combined to lose just three games in three straight-set victories. Ziccardi and Stone each earned three service breaks against their respective opponents in the second set.

Fourth-seeded Alex Bryant, one of two seniors among the starting six, posted his first legitimate singles win of the season. A four-year starter, Bryant turned back Hunt senior Andy Yerkes 6-3, 6-4.

"I know it takes him a while to get in the groove," said Dawson. "His position is really hard and if he didn't fill that spot, that would put us in a deficit. He's got a pivotal spot right there.

"Honestly, his game would get stronger if he plays in the offseason. We've got some things to work on with him."

Fifth-seeded David Benton and sixth-seeded Ben Wines, who each played on the junior varsity a year ago, also prevailed in straight sets. Benton topped Bart Landon 6-3, 6-0. Wines seized a spot in the lineup after winning a challenge match in practice on Wednesday and stopped Kyle Duck 6-1, 6-3.

"For Ben to play as strong as he did today, I was proud of him," said Dawson. "(We had) strong scores. I saw the guys execute a lot of things that we've been going over. When it got tight, they kept their head.

"As long as they can keep their focus and keep their eye on the mark, that's where Doc (McConnaghey) and I feel like we've done our job."

Bryant-Jackson escaped with a come-from-behind 8-6 win at No. 1 doubles. The duo struggled with first serves and trailed 3-2 at one point. Ziccardi-Stone notched an 8-0 shutout at No. 2 doubles. The third-seeded tandem of Benton and freshman Eric Barnes outlasted Hunt's Yerkes-Duck 8-5.

"I'm pleasantly surprised with Eric," said Dawson. "He and David seem to have some good chemistry. They're getting stronger and stronger, and trying to find their way."

Hunt (1-5) suffered its second shutout loss of the season.

Eastern Wayne 9

Wilson Hunt 0

Singles -- No. 1 Drew Ziccardi (EW) d. Drew Calvert 6-1, 6-0; No. 2 Jared Stone (EW) d. Alex Baskervill 6-1, 6-0; No. 3 Drew Jackson (EW) d. Justin Tew 6-0, 6-1; No. 4 Alex Bryant (EW) d. Andy Yerkes 6-3, 6-4; No. 5 David Benton (EW) d. Bart Landon 6-3, 6-0; No. 6 Ben Wines (EW) d. Kyle Duck 6-1, 6-3.

Doubles -- No. 1 Bryant-Jackson (EW) d. Calvert-Baskervill 8-6; No. 2 Ziccardi-Stone (EW) d. Tew-Landon 8-0; No. 3 Benton-Eric Barnes (EW) d. Yerkes-Duck 8-5.