04/25/07 — Warrior netters wrap up second straight ECC championship

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Warrior netters wrap up second straight ECC championship

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 25, 2007 1:50 PM

PIKEVILLE -- Dual-team playoff berths already secure, county men's tennis rivals Eastern Wayne and Charles B. Aycock needed four-plus hours to decide one final piece of business Tuesday afternoon.

The teams entered the contest with one match separating them in the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference standings. Four-plus hours later, the Warriors retained their regular-season crown when the second-seeded tandem of Ben Wines-Ken Lam held on for an 8-5 decision.

Eastern Wayne nipped C.B. Aycock 5-4 and grabbed the No. 1 seed for the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs. Weather permitting, the Warriors (14-3 overall, 9-0 ECC) conclude regular-season play at home Thursday afternoon against Kinston.

"I feel like I'm in a dream," said Eastern Wayne head coach Nancy Dawson. "My guys have really worked hard this season and several have learned how to compete. That's made a big difference.

"I'm really proud of them."

C.B. Aycock came close to joining the Warriors on the league's top perch.

Fourth-seeded Blake Cooper and sixth-seeded Dylan Quinn each pulled out a third-set tiebreaker. Cooper rallied from early deficits in the first two sets and edged Christian Pfuhl 7-6 (4), 5-7, 10-5.

"It took some mustard," said a grinning Cooper. "It was tough. The first set I went down early and wasn't using my fundamentals right. I just settled down, hit from the baseline and made him make the mistakes."

After a tight second set, Cooper notched the first three points in the decisive tiebreaker. From there, he cruised to his 15th singles victory of the season.

"When I got up 3-0, I didn't try anything fancy and didn't run to the net on every point," said Cooper. "I just found some extra energy to come through and get it."

Quinn and the Warriors' Eric Barnes traded 6-2 scores in the first two sets. Quinn overcame a few unforced errors to take the tiebreaker 10-8 and avenge a straight-set loss to Barnes nearly a month ago.

It was Barnes' first defeat in ECC play this season.

"One concern I had today was not winning our tiebreakers and that's very uncharacteristic of us," said Dawson.

Top-seeded freshman Blake Vail fell behind 1-0 against Eastern Wayne senior Jared Stone. However, he reeled off 12 straight games for a 6-1, 6-0 victory and remained perfect in 20 outings.

Eastern Wayne received singles points from Drew Jackson, Ben Wines and fifth-seeded David Benton. Jackson erased a 3-0 second-set deficit and turned back Golden Falcon freshman Addison Westbrook 6-4, 7-5.

"I was tired," Jackson said of the sluggish second set. "He was keeping the ball in too much and it was getting to me. I didn't know what to do with it."

Once Jackson pulled within 4-3, he settled down.

"I had a little more energy after that," said Jackson. "I just decided to keep the ball in (play) and let him win the points, not me."

Jackson (14-1) picked up his 13th consecutive singles win and remained unbeaten in nine ECC matches this season.

Wines and Ben Evans hooked up for another three-set marathon. After a disastrous second set, Wines improved to 9-0 against ECC opposition with a 6-4, 1-6, 10-8 win.

"(Wines) played really well for them today," said Aycock head coach Kevin Coghill. "He played clutch points."

Second-year starter David Benton helped Eastern Wayne achieve a 3-3 tie heading into doubles. Sidelined earlier this season with a shoulder injury, Benton needed just over 30 minutes to defeat Ben Nichols 6-1, 6-1.

Benton climbed to 12-5 overall and 9-0 in ECC action.

The Warriors' top-seeded doubles of Stone-Jackson rose to 12-2 with an 8-3 win over Vail-Westbrook. The Golden Falcons' No. 3 tandem of Cooper-Nichols countered with a surprising 8-5 win over Benton-Barnes.

That left Wines-Lam and Evans-Quinn to decide the outcome. Wines-Lam, according to Dawson, had played just one match together this season.

"I guess the main thing with them today was they didn't lose faith in themselves," said Dawson. "They just kept doing what they needed to do. I was extremely pleased with Ken's play. He kicked it up a notch.

"When we needed the big points, Ben was able to deliver."

The Warriors racked up their 18th consecutive victory in ECC regular-season play and 30th overall in 32 tries since 2004. Dawson's team has not lost an ECC road contest in its last 10 outings.

"I'm impressed with how far C.B. Aycock has come from last year," said a gracious Dawson. "Kevin has done a spectacular job with them I think. They'll represent us well in the dual teams."

C.B. Aycock fell to 12-8 overall and 7-2 in the ECC. The Golden Falcons clinched their first postseason bid since 2001 late last week.

"We had our opportunities, but couldn't pull it through," said Coghill, who graduated from Southern Wayne. "It's disappointing, but you also have to think it's selfish to want it all the first season.

"Maybe I'm a little greedy, but I wanted it all (for the kids). Oh well, maybe next year."

Eastern Wayne 5

C.B. Aycock 4

Singles -- No. 1 Blake Vail (CBA) d. Jared Stone 6-1, 6-0; No. 2 Drew Jackson (EW) d. Blake Addison 6-4, 7-5; No. 3 Ben Wines (EW) d. Ben Evans 6-4, 1-6, 10-8; No. 4 Blake Cooper (CBA) d. Christian Pfuhl 7-6 (4), 5-7, 10-5; No. 5 David Benton (EW) d. Ben Nichols 6-1, 6-1; No. 6 Dylan Quinn (CBA) d. Eric Barnes 6-2, 2-6, 10-8.

Doubles -- No. 1 Stone-Jackson (EW) d. Vail-Westbrook 8-3; No. 2 Wines-Ken Lam (EW) d. Quinn-Evans 8-5; No. 3 Cooper-Nichols (CBA) d. Benton-Barnes 8-5.

Records: Eastern Wayne 14-3, 9-0 Eastern Carolina 3-A; C.B. Aycock 12-8, 7-2.