06/01/06 — News-Argus Tennis Players of the Year - EW duo shares honor

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News-Argus Tennis Players of the Year - EW duo shares honor

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 1, 2006 2:19 PM


No matter who claimed victory in weekly challenge matches, veteran Eastern Wayne men's tennis coach Nancy Dawson knew this: either Drew Ziccardi or Jared Stone -- or both -- would claim a singles win.

She was right.

Ziccardi blossomed as the season progressed and Stone played a steady style all season in leading the Warriors to their first-ever Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference regular-season crown. The duo also helped the program gain its first dual-team playoff victory in nearly a decade.

"Before the beginning of the season, I don't remember her (Dawson) really saying anything other than just try our best in every match," said Ziccardi. "She didn't put any pressure on us about getting first in conference. As long as we played our best, hopefully the results would speak for themselves."


Ziccardi emerged the ECC singles champion and Stone reached the semifinals. Both netters qualified for the NCHSAA individual regionals and finished among the east's top four players.

The duo also reached the state tournament. Ziccardi stumbled in the opening round, while Stone advanced to the elite eight.

For their strong performances, Ziccardi and Stone have been selected the 2006 News-Argus co-Men's Tennis Players of the Year.

On any given afternoon, you can find Stone and Ziccardi blasting ground strokes at each other, and mixing in a chip volley now and then on the courts at school or any nearby park.

"It's good competition," said Ziccardi during a short break from playing Stone at Herman Park. "He gets everything back ... a grinder. Just when you think you've got an open court and think you have an easy putaway, he'll get it to more times than you like.

"He's a tough competitor and gets the job done."

Ziccardi started the season as the No. 3 seed, but overtook Stone in a challenge match for the top slot when the Warriors entered ECC play. The two switched position on a couple of occasions, but Ziccardi retained the spot by season's end.

"This year, Drew was just a little bit above me," said Stone. "Honestly, it kind of humbled me down and made me work a lot harder because he got so much better than me in the offseason.

"He knew how to play me, how to beat me and made me work harder to get back to the number one spot."

Stone expected he and Ziccardi, along with Kinston senior James Walker, would materialize as the top three players in the conference. Stone endured third-set cramps in the ECC semifinals against Walker, who suffered a straight-set loss against Ziccardi in the championship match.

Ziccardi played consistent on his forehand and backhand strokes, and also found a net game as the season progressed.

"I really focused on trying to hit a deep shot as a ground stroke," said Ziccardi. "If I expected a short ball, I moved in and tried to put more pressure on the guy ... put it away at the net, which doesn't always happen.

"Actually, I'm still getting the hang with the consistency part."

Stone, admittedly, doesn't possess a flashy game. He compares his play to that of former N.C. State quarterback Phillip Rivers.

"I'm unorthodox, but I get the job done," said Stone. "My game is not the prettiest and my form or ground stroke isn't the best. I saw that when I filmed by matches at regionals.

"I just grind away and try to be consistent."

The duo combined for 40-plus singles wins and helped the Warriors finish unbeaten in nine tries against ECC opposition. The season finale against Kinston was canceled due to rain.

Since they've been in the lineup, Eastern Wayne is 21-2 in conference dual-team play.

"We had good players on the team to practice with that made us better and helped us out a lot down the stretch," said Stone. "It was a great season for me, as well as the team. It was real fun."