04/07/06 — Spring Creek men's tennis nips RHS

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Spring Creek men's tennis nips RHS

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 7, 2006 1:59 PM

Bothered by a nagging hand injury, Spring Creek junior Frederick Ellis didn't think he could bare any more discomfort Thursday afternoon.

His blistered right hand, protected by a black glove, hampered Ellis' forehand grip. Things worsened when he twisted his left ankle during the first game against Rosewood's Josh Fail.

"That affected his movement," said Gators coach Robert Jones.

But the more Ellis played, the less the injury seemed to bother him. Ellis erased an erratic first set with a more-consistent effort in the second set, and forced a third-set tiebreaker.

The sixth-seeded Ellis dominated the early stages of the tiebreaker and held on for a 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 victory over Fail. The critical, three-set nail-biter proved to be the decisive match in Spring Creek's 5-4 conquest of its Class 1-A Carolina Conference archrival.

"A pivotal match for us," said Jones. "He didn't quit and that's one thing you have to admire about him. He got through it and knew we needed this match to get up 4-2 going into doubles."

Ellis led 3-2 in the opening set, but couldn't hold serve and committed several unforced errors. Fail didn't earn a single service break against Ellis in the second set, and fell victim to his own untimely miscues.

Instead of taking the customary recess before the tiebreaker, Ellis and Fail opted to continue playing. Ellis forged ahead 5-1, but won just one of the next four points.

Fail fended off one match point at 6-4. Ellis smartly kept the next point in play and Fail dropped a match-ending forehand return into the net.

"The player who can go out there and make the least amount of mistakes will have the upper hand," said veteran Rosewood coach Bert Perkiness. "The tiebreaker match came down to staying focused, and keeping the ball in play.

"We just didn't do it."

Perkiness and Jones each surmised that his respective team needed three singles wins heading into doubles play. Jones, admittedly, thought the key matches would be Nos. 4 and 6 singles -- which his team won.

Fourth-seeded Brandon Strickland rallied from a 3-2 deficit to lead 4-3 in the second set. Drew Kriger, who leads the Eagles with nine singles victories, held serve and drew even at 4-all.

Strickland, a junior, held serve and put the pressure on Kriger. Kriger double-faulted to fall behind love-30 and couldn't recover in a 6-2, 6-4 loss.

"Drew is very consistent and just keeps the ball coming back," said Jones. "Brandon had a rash of errors and sometimes you have to hit through it, which Brandon did at the end.

"I think Drew got a little tight serving at 4-5. His feet left him after that double fault and when you get tight, your feet are usually the first thing that goes. Brandon did a good job of moving him around."

Gator senior Cliff Wilson, the reigning News-Argus Player of the Year, prevailed 6-1, 6-0 against Ti Johnson at the No. 1 spot. Wilson remained unbeaten in seven outings and has yet to lose a set this season.

Fourth-seeded Justin Smith collected Spring Creek's fourth singles win of the day with a 6-3, 6-3 triumph over Trevor Morris.

Wilson-Strickland emerged the lone doubles victor for the Gators.

Daniel Ellis and J.P. Cummins picked up straight-set singles wins for the Eagles, who fell to 7-5 overall and 1-1 against Carolina Conference opposition. Cummins-Kriger and Morris-Fail each won their respective doubles match.

"We did about like I expected us to do," said Jones. "We made a lot of errors today, but the boys played hard and still found a way to win."

Spring Creek (5-2, 2-0 Carolina) entertains East Duplin next Tuesday afternoon.

Spring Creek 5

Rosewood 4

Singles -- No. 1 Cliff Wilson (SC) d. Ti Johnson 6-1, 6-0; No. 2 Daniel Ellis (RHS) d. Jonathan Sutton 6-1, 6-1; No. 3 J.P. Cummins (RHS) d. John Pots 6-2, 6-1; No. 4 Brandon Strickland (SC) d. Drew Kriger 6-2, 6-4; No. 5 Justin Smith (RHS) d. Trevor Morris 6-3, 6-3; No. 6 Frederick Ellis (SC) d. Josh Fail 3-6, 6-1, 7-5.

Doubles -- No. 1 Wilson-Strickland (SC) d. Johnson-Ellis 8-2; No. 2 Cummins-Kriger (RHS) d. Smith-Potts 8-2; No. 3 Morris-Fail (SC) d. Sutton-Ellis 8-2.

Records: Spring Creek 5-2, 2-0 Carolina 1-A; Rosewood 7-5, 1-1.