Spring Creek's Daniel claims singles crown
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 11, 2012 1:48 PM
DUDLEY -- Wipe the slate clean.
Emily Daniel used that sound, self advice well and emerged the Carolina 1-A Conference singles champion on a sun-splashed Wednesday afternoon at Southern Wayne High School.
Daniel defeated North Duplin freshman Julisa Quintanilla 6-4, 6-0 after the match was suspended Tuesday evening because of slick court conditions from a day-long, cold misty rain.
Quintanilla's older sibling, Jasmin, clinched the league's final eastern regional berth with a 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-1 triumph over the Gators' Anna Haggerty in the third-place match.
The two outcomes created a four-way deadlock for the Carolina Conference tournament crown. Defending title-holder North Duplin scored five points along with regular-season champ Goldsboro, Ayden-Grifton and Spring Creek.
North Duplin head coach Kirk Pullen said the two-day tournament resembled regular-season play. Two losses separated the top three teams in the five-member league with one dual match left to play today.
"It came down to mental play because I think everybody has about the same physical skills," said Pullen, whose team travels to Spring Creek to determine the conference's second dual-team playoff qualifier.
"It has been amazingly close all the way around."
Day two wasn't close for Daniel, who was the Carolina singles runner-up a year ago. Daniel and Julisa Quintanilla battled to a 3-3 tie when Quintanilla slid into the net and suffered a minor injury Tuesday.
Quintanilla showed no signs of the injury Wednesday.
Daniel, meanwhile, was on a mission.
Tied at 4-all in the opening set, Daniel seized control and won the final eight games to secure the singles crown. She used the court well and consistently kept the ball in play against Quintanilla, who made several uncharacteristic unforced errors.
"I played a lot of cross-court shots, didn't focus on making or breaking a point (but) just lobbing it back," Daniel said. "(Tuesday) was like a mind blow. You don't know what's going to happen the next day. All you can think of is a clean slate, let me start over and not worry about yesterday.
"It feels great. Finally!"
Daniel felt fortunate to be in the title match. Just 24 hours earlier, she faced a five-game, third-set deficit against Jasmin Quintanilla in semifinal-round play.
"I was down 5-0 and thought to myself 'is this how I want to go out my senior year?'" Daniel said. "I went back out there, let all emotion and just played the very best I could."
Quintanilla grabbed the final three points and closed out the opening set 6-4 against Haggerty. The two battled through six ties and four consecutive service breaks in the second set before Haggerty won 7-6 (4).
Quintanilla minimized her unforced errors in the third set and rolled to a 3-0 advantage. Haggerty won the fourth game, but couldn't keep the momentum.
"Jasmin ... wow, a back-and-forth match," Pullen said. "She was really patient, the most I've seen her over the last two days. She closed out the match after having that tough loss yesterday. Coming back from something like that is not easy to do.
"It was a really big win for her."
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