05/01/08 — ECC men's tennis championship

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ECC men's tennis championship

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 1, 2008 3:13 PM

SNOW HILL -- "Get in there and fight for it."

Eastern Wayne tennis coach Nancy Dawson offered that advice to the top-seeded tandem of Chris Knobling-Eric Barnes during a changeover Wednesday afternoon. The duo took a deep breath, returned to the court and did the rest.

Knobling-Barnes erased a first-set, three-game deficit and stopped Charles B. Aycock's Ben Evans-Dylan Quinn 7-5, 6-2 in their Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference semifinal-round match.

"They were a little bit nervous because they hadn't played any at all," said Dawson. "They settled down and made up their minds they were going to play. Things turned out good for them and it could have easily gone the other way."

Knobling-Barnes (17-2 overall) began attacking the net and exploiting the weaknesses of Evans-Quinn. As the match progressed and the unforced errors piled up, the Warrior twosome found themselves trailing just 5-4 in the opening set.

Evans-Quinn, seeded fifth, couldn't match their opponents' aggressive style and began to play passive. The Golden Falcon duo managed to win just two more games as Knobling-Barnes advanced to today's championship match against another Aycock duo -- second-seeded Addison Westbrook-Blake Cooper.

Westbrook-Cooper lost just one game in two matches.

"Addison and Blake play really well together," said Golden Falcons head coach Kevin Coghill. "Blake is very solid and puts balls away at the net. Addison has the best volleys on the team. They set each other up very well."

In singles, defending champion Blake Vail posted first- and second-round shutouts. The Aycock sophomore improved to 22-0 this season and opposes unseeded David Benton of Eastern Wayne in the semifinals today.

"Blake is taller and has gained some pounds," said Coghill. "He hits the ball a whole lot harder. What we've worked on is his counter-punching, taking the ball early and changing direction.

"He may not hit a lot of winners, but he's forcing his opponent to hit a lot."

Benton prevailed in the final six games to turn back fourth-seeded Chris King 6-1, 5-7, 6-1. King, who plays for Southern Wayne, and Benton split their regular-season meetings. Benton clinched a berth in next week's N.C. High School Athletic Association eastern regionals.

"David is a competitor and knows how to compete," said Dawson. "He wasn't going to be denied today."

In the other singles semifinal, third-seeded Drew Jackson faces second-seeded Martin Wdowiak. Jackson (16-3) lost just one game in two matches on the Snow Hill Tennis Complex courts. Wdowiak, an exchange student from Argentina, dropped just two games on the day.