04/26/07 — Gators spring past Eagles

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Gators spring past Eagles

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 26, 2007 2:58 PM

Heads or tails?

That's the unwelcomed fate awaiting Class 1-A Carolina Conference men's tennis archrivals Spring Creek and Rosewood after the Gators prevailed 7-2 on Wednesday afternoon.

The victory vaulted Spring Creek (3-8 overall) into second place in the league at 3-2 and dropped Rosewood (5-7, 3-3 Carolina) to third. An upset over regular-season champion North Johnston next Monday assures the Gators of the league's No. 2 seed for the N.C. High School Athletic Association dual-team playoffs.

A loss results in a coin flip and keeps the Eagles, the reigning Carolina champions, in the postseason picture.

"We really didn't want to do that, but that's the way it goes," said RHS coach Daniel Mitchell, who played on the Eagles' 1992 squad which won a Carolina championship.

"It will be the luck of the draw now. You have to give Coach (Robert) Jones and his team credit for coming over and playing well today."

Jones doesn't cotton to a coin flip, either. Then again, he gushed over his team's effort in the breezy and warm conditions.

"I have been waiting for a complete match all season," said Jones. "We've taken some hard knocks and lost some close matches. It was good for the guys and me that we had a match where everybody played as good as they could possibly play.

"It's been a long time coming."

Spring Creek, this time, avoided a collapse in singles play.

Top-seeded Brandon Strickland, one of two holdovers from the 2005 state 1-A runner-up team, cruised past the Eagles' Daniel Ellis 6-1, 6-2. It was Ellis' first loss in conference play this season.

Third-seeded Daniel Richter toppled J.P. Cummins 6-1, 6-0. Fifth-seeded Daniel Correll shook off a late second-set slump and turned back Josh Fail 6-1, 6-4. Fail trailed 5-2 and pulled within 5-4 before Correll held service to close out the match.

Sixth-seeded Frederick Ellis, also a member of the 2005 state runner-up squad, handed Ravi Chattilla a 6-1, 6-0 setback.

"Ellis, it was good see him get a win at the bottom since he hasn't experienced too many wins this season," said Jones. "I thought two and four would be difficult for us to win, and the match, I thought, would come down to number one.

"Brandon picked his corners, cranked his serve and set up his forehand very well. On days when's he is on, he's very tough to beat."

Returning starters Trevor Morris and Drew Kriger seized Rosewood's two singles points. Morris rallied from a 5-4 opening-set deficit and dumped Alex Dunmire 7-5, 6-1. Kriger overcame a disappointing second-set tiebreaker and dealt Aaron Dunmire a 6-2, 6-7 (5), 10-6 loss.

"Drew had to battle and Trevor started out slow, but finished strong," said Mitchell. "Everybody battled. They (Kriger, Morris) happened to turn it on and come through in their singles matches to at least keep us in it until doubles."

The Gators controlled doubles play.

Strickland-Ellis, the top seed, doubled up Ellis-Morris 8-4. The Dunmire brothers escaped Cummins-Kriger 8-6 and the third-seeded tandem of Correll-Ellis dispatched Fail-Chittilla 8-2. Correll and Ellis accounted for three of Spring Creek's seven points.

"Ellis-Strickland cranked it up," said Jones. "All three doubles played well and the momentum carried off from singles. It was much like the match from our place where Rosewood tied it at 3-3 in singles and took the momentum into doubles.

"It worked in our favor today."

A loss would have snapped the Gators' streak of five consecutive postseason appearances. Depending on Monday's outcome, the tradition might rest on a "heads" or "tails" call.

"They knew what was on the line today," said Jones. "We've got a good thing going and we want to keep it going. We control our own destiny now."

Spring Creek 7

Rosewood 2

Singles -- No. 1 Brandon Strickland (SC) d. Daniel Ellis 6-1, 6-2; No. 2 Trevor Morris (RHS) d. Alex Dunmire 7-5, 6-1; No. 3 Daniel Richter (SC) d. J.P. Cummins 6-1, 6-0; No. 4 Drew Kriger (RHS) d. Aaron Dunmire 6-3, 6-7 (5), 10-6; No. 5 Daniel Correll (SC) d. Josh Fail 6-1, 6-4; No. 6 Frederick Ellis (SC) d. Ravi Chittilla 6-1, 6-0.

Doubles -- No. 1 Strickland-Richter (SC) d. Ellis-Morris 8-4; No. 2 Al. Dunmire-Aa. Dunmire (SC) d. Cummins-Kriger 8-6; No. 3 Correll-Ellis (SC) d. Fail-Chittilla 8-2.

Records: Spring Creek 3-8 overall, 3-2 Carolina 1-A Conference; Rosewood 5-7, 3-3 CC.