05/01/09 — Westbrook-Nichols collect doubles title

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Westbrook-Nichols collect doubles title

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 1, 2009 1:46 PM

SNOW HILL -- Blake Vail stepped into the ball and mishit an overhead shot wide of the baseline.

"Oh, no," groaned the Charles B. Aycock junior.

Match point had been wasted.

Energized by the break, Russell Turner applied more pressure. The Eastern Wayne junior reeled off two straight games and pulled within 5-4 in the second set.

But Vail recovered just in time. The two-time defending ECC singles champion easily claimed the next game and prevailed 6-1, 6-4 on the Snow Hill Tennis Complex courts.

Vail remained unbeaten in 42 meetings against ECC opposition in regular-season and tournament play during his career.

"He just kept fighting," said Vail of Turner.

Vail cruised through the opening set with a consistent first serve and strong play on the baseline. Turner seemed content to hit groundstrokes and rarely attacked the net.

Turner earned a service break to start the second set and was within one point of taking a 2-1 lead in games. But Vail rallied from a 40-love deficit and turned the tables when Turner's backhand return dropped into the net to end the game.

"That was pretty crucial," said Turner. "I won the next game, but he won three straight and nearly took me out of the match. I did fight back into it, though."

Vail moved in front 5-2 and had match point. But he missed an overhead return off a short volley, and Turner grabbed the momentum. Working Vail from corner to corner with smartly-placed groundstrokes, Turner climbed within 5-4.

"Missing that overhead, I let that affect me and carry over into the next game," said Vail. "I was thinking about it too much instead of just playing. Once it was 5-4, it was just about heart, not miss any shots and do what it takes to win this last game."

Vail sailed in front 40-15 in the final game. Turner's next shot clipped the net and sailed out of bounds. Vail shouted "come on!", walked to the net and the two shook hands as the crowd applauded in appreciation of the well-played match.

"5-all would have been a long road and I didn't want that," said Vail.

Turner dropped to 14-4 for the season.

"The second set, I went to the net and won a few points," said Turner. "I just wanted to win and started hitting some shots. I almost pulled it off."

Vail's victory completed a title-run sweep for the Golden Falcons.

Earlier in the day, the top-seeded tandem of Addison Westbrook-Ben Nichols stopped Eastern Wayne's duo of Eric Barnes-Mike Barnette 6-3, 6-2 in the doubles final.

Barnes-Barnette led 2-1 in the second set, but couldn't keep the momentum.

"They have a better strategy, are moving well together at the net and actually coming to the net more," said Aycock coach Kevin Coghill of Westbrook-Nichols. "They're attacking, putting overheads away and playing good, confident doubles. That's good to see.

"They've matured a lot and have better knowledge of the game."

Vail served 18 aces in his 6-0, 6-1 semifinal-round victory over Kobi Hood, lost a three-setter to Kinston's Jeremy Merritt in the third-place match. Turner advanced with a 6-1, 6-0 conquest of Merritt.

In doubles, Aycock's tandem of Dylan Quinn-Rawad Alawar claimed third place with a 6-2, 6-1 romp over Eastern Wayne's Joe DiCesare-Will Kastner.