10/25/06 — Golden Falcons advance in dual-team 3-A tennis

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Golden Falcons advance in dual-team 3-A tennis

By Steve Roush
Published in Sports on October 25, 2006 2:21 PM

PIKEVILLE -- The resumé keeps getting more and more impressive.

The Charles B. Aycock tennis girls team has made Final Four appearances in eight of the last nine years, advanced to the state finals in 1995, '96, '97 and 2005, won it all in '97 and they've won a whopping 302 consecutive conference matches dating back to the late 1970s.

Now, the Golden Falcons are back in the state quarterfinals.

And as usual, the Lady Falcons advanced in style as they dominated visiting Jacksonville 5-1 on a cold and windy Tuesday afternoon.

"It feels really good to be back in the Elite 8 because we're seniors," Raychel Batts said as she draped her arm around fellow senior Lizzie Sodoma after the victory. "We want to keep advancing, and we want to win a state championship."

Batts (12-1) cruised to a 6-2, 6-0 win over Jacksonville's Brooke Mills in first singles, while Sodoma (13-4) took care of Victorian Gerichten 6-0, 6-1 in third singles.

"Since this is our last year of playing tennis here, it's important that we get really far into the playoffs," Sodoma said. "This was a big win for us. It was a cold day, but the wind bothers me more than the cold. The ball moves around all different ways when it's windy, and that makes it tough. But we were able to get through it."

Charles B. Aycock coach Luke Vail said he was impressed with how his team heated up as the temperatures fell.

"Jacksonville was a very competitive team all the way through the lineup, and I think we played very well," Vail said. "It was a cold day, and we were focused from the very beginning and we raised our intensity level as the match progressed. When you look at it, in the second sets, all of our players were better in that set than in the first. As the match went on, we got better and better."

Vail said the dominate play of Batts and Sodoma set the tone.

"Raychel Batts had another outstanding effort," Vail said. "She's won 98 matches in her varsity career, and I'm really proud of the way she leads the team. And Lizzie has played anywhere from one to four this year and she's probably as athletic as anyone in our lineup and is probably our best net player. And together, Raychel and Lizzie are very solid in doubles, so if it comes down to doubles, we can count on them."

The Lady Falcons also continued to dominate at the bottom of the lineup as Kristen Bennett (18-0) cruised past Megan White 6-2, 6-0 in fifth singles and Courtney Barnes (17-1) eased past Haley Vatcher 6-1, 6-1 in sixth singles.

"We've gotten some really big wins all year long from Kristen Bennett and Courtney Barnes down at No. 5 and 6," Vail said. "They're 35-1 between them, they kind of carried us early in the season and have played exceptional tennis all year."

Emilee Quinn (12-5) picked up a win at No. 4 singles as she took care of Mary Jack 6-2, 6-1, but Jacksonville's Brittany Mills made sure Aycock didn't come away with a shutout as she slipped past Kristen Prosser (5-11) in a tiebreaker in second singles 6-3, 0-6, 10-8.

"Emily Quinn is doing a solid job for us at No. 4," Vail said. "And Kristen Prosser had a chance to win her match today. She did a good job of turning it around in the second set and it could have gone either way. She's starting to get her consistency back and she hit some good balls against a good player. She played well enough to win it, but she made some mistakes in the tiebreaker and the Jacksonville girl made some good shots there at the end."

The Lady Falcons (15-3) will now take on conference rival Eastern Wayne at Mount Olive College on Tuesday afternoon in the quarterfinals.

"I'm really proud of our players to be in the final eight," Vail said. "I thought in our last few regular season matches and in the playoffs, we've played well, and we're starting to play the best tennis we've played all season."

Vail said the confidence seems to be there, but know his team has to keep raising the bar.

"Each match from here on out, the competition keeps getting tougher," Vail said. "By the time you hit the final four, it takes an outstanding effort to get back to the state championship. Last year, we got there, so the players believe they can be successful. They know what last year's team did, and they know what teams at Aycock for years and years have done."