12/08/06 — Tennis players of the year: Aycock's Batts-Sodoma a perfect match on the court

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Tennis players of the year: Aycock's Batts-Sodoma a perfect match on the court

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on December 8, 2006 1:47 PM

PIKEVILLE -- A perfect mix.

No other phrase can describe in finer detail the Charles B. Aycock women's tennis duo of Raychel Batts-Lizzie Sodoma, who are the 2006 News-Argus co-players of the year.

They're good friends who communicate well and bring two different styles of play to the court. Batts prefers pounding out powerful groundstrokes while Sodoma favors dominating the net.

Veteran Aycock coach Luke Vail expected Batts-Sodoma to excel.

And they did.

The duo played an integral role in the Golden Falcons' march to their 28th consecutive league championship, and helped the program extend its unbeaten conference-match win streak to 302.

Batts-Sodoma fashioned an 18-2 record that included an unbeaten mark in Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference regular-season play, an eastern regional championship. It was Sodoma's second doubles title with a different partner and Batts' fourth regional crown overall. Batts seized singles championships from 2003-05.

They finished second in the state tournament.

"Raychel was a good singles player and has played doubles with whoever she needed to play with," said Vail. "This year, we made sure to put a great doubles partner with her and Lizzie is a great doubles player.

"Usually good friends have good communication, and that's one of the secrets to success in doubles. 'How well can I communicate with my partner, especially when the going gets tough?'"

Neither Batts nor Sodoma could have predicted a better outcome, especially Batts. A condition called rhabdomyolysis curtailed Batts from playing singles in a few dual matches. The disorder depletes Batts' food supply faster than normal, but doctors aren't sure why she has a malady which usually affects marathon runners.

Instead of utilizing the body's stored fat and enzymes, which feed nutrients to the blood and tissues, rhabdo immediately skips to breaking down the muscles. It causes painful muscle spasms and cramps.

"It wasn't that big of a deal," said Batts. "I just had to drink and eat, but it was harder for me because I wasn't used to getting tired and having to stop. I can feel it when it comes on."

Batts admitted playing both singles and doubles on the same day proved difficult.

"Her condition was tough for her to overcome and accept, but she handled it really well," said Vail. "Given her choice, Raychel would take singles over doubles any day, but she turned out to be a really good doubles player and a great partner for Lizzie."

Batts-Sodoma worked through the adversity and hardly ever struggled when they took the court.

"We made it fun," said Sodoma, who compiled a 34-4 record in doubles during a two-year span. "We didn't stress out about it. (Doubles) is more fun to me because it's not all on me to win my match. I have someone there to help me out, and I help them out."

Once the weather cooled during the final month of play, Batts-Sodoma was unstoppable until the state final. They upended tandems from Jamestown Ragsdale, Charlotte Catholic and Western Guilford before tangling with Hickory's Stephani Synn-Stephanie Teague in the championship match.

Synn-Teague outlasted Batts-Sodoma 6-4, 6-1 and denied them the opportunity to become just the third doubles team in Wayne County history to claim a state title. Goldsboro's duo of Daniela Marx-Lee Worrell won three titles during a four-year span with the last occurring in 1990. The duo of Lucy Rose-Joan Johnson collected the county's first crown in 1972.

"I felt Raychel and Lizzie had the potential to make it to the final match if the draw was okay and they were playing well," said Vail. "They did play well. They had a great season for two people who had never played together.

"That's very rare in tennis."

Batts agreed.

"Having Lizzie as a doubles player worked out good all-around," said Batts, who finished her prep career 99-6 on the singles scene. "It was good for our team and good for us."

Nothing could have been more perfect.