05/25/07 — Williams tops Eastern Wayne in east finals

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Williams tops Eastern Wayne in east finals

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 25, 2007 1:47 PM

Eastern Wayne's historic, season-long run in men's tennis came to a grinding halt Thursday afternoon at Herman Park.

The Warriors didn't seem to mind.

A stinging 5-1 loss to perennial power Burlington Williams in the eastern dual-team final couldn't dampen their spirit. They proudly hoisted the runner-up plaque and smiled as parents crowded around to capture the moment on digital cameras.

Eastern Wayne (17-4 overall) emerged the first team in school and Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference history to reach the regional round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.

"I'm very pleased with the outcome of the season," said Eastern Wayne head coach Nancy Dawson, who again, choked back tears. "I'm tickled to death that the guys went as far as they did ... a lot farther than anyone expected.

"We feel very fortunate to be with the elite teams like Williams, Catholic and Statesville."

Williams successfully defended its eastern crown and continues play Saturday in the state finals at Burlington. The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs (18-2) oppose No. 2-ranked Statesville, which upset top-ranked Charlotte Catholic 5-1.

"We talk about effort, enjoying the game, play with poise and have fun with it, if you can," said Bulldogs head coach Mike Beamon. "It's tough because if you lose, you're out. You want to leave everything on the court, but you don't want to leave the court facing a long bus ride."

The Dogs' three-hour trip seemed a distant memory once play started.

Eastern Wayne grabbed an early 1-0 advantage on a couple of courts and Dawson crossed her fingers in hopes it would continue. But once Williams shook off the trip's effects, it settled into a groove.

"Eastern Wayne played very well early," said Beamon. "We picked it up. They knew what they had to do, got focused and brought their game back very well."

As the shadows slowly grew on the John Allen Farfour courts, each match turned in the Bulldogs' favor. Sophomore Ethan Brooks claimed Williams' first singles point with a 6-2, 6-1 decision over David Benton.

Teammates Stefan Sumner and Adam Blaser quickly followed with straight-set wins. Top-seeded Joseph Canada defeated Jared Stone for his 17th singles victory in 20 tries.

Junior Boby Katumkeeryil wrapped up the eastern title with a 6-1, 6-4 conquest of the Warriors' Eric Barnes.

"We've been working toward this all year and I really don't have to say much to them," said Beamon. "We knew this was going to be a tough match, especially any time you play in the (state) semifinals.

"We know what our goal is each step. (We) take one at a time and this was the next step."

Christian Pfuhl collected Eastern Wayne's lone singles point -- a 5-7, 6-2, 10-8 thriller over fourth-seeded Ross Powell. The victory snapped the Bulldogs' string of three consecutive playoff shutouts.

Once the picture taking ended, Dawson put the silver-engraved plaque back into the box. She carefully folded each corner, tucked the box under her arm and walked away from the courts.

"I'm proud of my guys today," said Dawson. "They probably didn't play their best tennis, but they've got a big heart."

Burlington Williams 5

Eastern Wayne 1

Singles -- No. 1 Joseph Canada (W) d. Jared Stone 6-1, 6-2; No. 2 Stefan Sumner (W) d. Drew Jackson 6-3, 6-0; No. 3 Adam Blaser (W) d. Ben Wines 6-0, 6-1; No. 4 Christian Pfuhl (EW) d. Ross Powell 5-7, 6-2, 10-8; No. 5 Ethan Brooks (W) d. David Benton 6-2, 6-1; No. 6 Roby Katumkeeryil (W) d. Eric Barnes 6-1, 6-4.

Doubles -- Not contested.

Records: Eastern Wayne 17-4, Williams 18-2.