04/30/10 — Vail captures nail-biting three-setter

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Vail captures nail-biting three-setter

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 30, 2010 1:46 PM

SNOW HILL -- Blake Vail listened and nodded his head as he chewed on a snack and finished off the last drops of a Gatorade.

"The time is now son," said Charles B. Aycock head coach Kevin Coghill during the next-to-last changeover. "Step up your game and show him what you're made of."

Vail grabbed his towel, racquet and headed onto the court.

Three games later, the Golden Falcon senior secured his fourth consecutive Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference men's singles crown with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 triumph over Eastern Wayne freshman Chaz Fitzpatrick. Vail became the first-ever, four-time ECC tournament champion in program and league history.

Aycock's tandem of Addison Westbrook-Dylan Quinn completed the sweep with a 6-3, 6-3 conquest of the Warriors' Mike Barnette-Aaron Dunmire in the doubles championship.

Eastern Wayne sophomore Russell Turner defeated the Golden Falcons' Will Hoff 6-0, 6-2 in the third-place singles match. Southern Wayne's second-seeded tandem of Kobi Hood-Brandon Outlaw captured third-place honors in doubles with a straight-set victory over teammates Bennie Segura-Cameron Thames.

All 12 players return to action in next week's eastern regionals at Barton College in Wilson.

Fitzpatrick and Vail split their regular-season meetings with each emerging victorious on his home court. And despite suffering his first-ever loss in 77 dual-team meetings, Vail felt confident he could pull off the historical four-peat.

"I actually thought all of the pressure was off me," said Vail, who boosted his career record to 101-5. "I got the number two seed in this tournament and that put a chip on my shoulder. I thought it was time to go out, have a big tournament and win it."

Vail counter-punched Fitzpatrick throughout the opening set. He picked his times to attack the net, while Fitzpatrick pulled the trigger at what seemed like perfect times on several key points.

Fitzpatrick worked Vail from corner to corner, and consistently attacked the net during the second set. He ripped 15 winners and coaxed a frustrated Vail into 16 unforced errors.

"In the first set, I actually finished some of the points quick opposed to the second where I was getting tired, and just hoping that I could make enough balls to win it," said Vail. "Obviously, that didn't happen."

Fitzpatrick kept a one-game advantage throughout the decisive set as both players had trouble holding serve. Vail tied the set at 4-all, and grabbed a 5-4 lead when Fitzpatrick's chip volley clipped the net and dropped back on his side of the court.

Vail raced to a 40-love lead in the final game and held double-match point at 40-15 when he collected the final point.

"He got a few balls back and I went for too much," said Fitzpatrick. "He started playing better and I started hitting over the ball, just didn't know what to do. I guess I was a little impatient and just got too jittery.

"It's kind of hard to be nervous when you're the freshman because no one expects you to really get that far."

Westbrook-Quinn reeled off a 4-1, opening-set advantage against the Saints' Segura-Thames in their semifinal-round match. Segura-Thames aggressively attacked second serves and benefited from numerous unforced errors.

Segura-Thames took a 5-4 lead, but couldn't hold on as Westbrook-Quinn rallied for a 7-5 first-set win.

"We were making stupid errors ... clumsy," said Quinn. "We went in there a little too headstrong I think. After we won the first set, we realized we had to step it up and the second set was a lot easier."

The Aycock duo claimed the second set 6-1 and faced Barnette-Dunmire for the ECC title. Westbrook-Quinn raced to early three-game leads in each set against the Warriors, who had trouble finding a consistent rhythm on a sun-splashed, breezy afternoon.

"We started off slow, but once we got our momentum, everything just started going our way," said Quinn. "Winning the first set definitely made things easier and we loosened up. We really are both doubles players and we love to play at the net."