08/29/13 — Eastern Wayne upends Rocky Mount in battle of state-ranked tennis teams

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Eastern Wayne upends Rocky Mount in battle of state-ranked tennis teams

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 29, 2013 1:49 PM


Sometimes the "backboard mentality" works wonders.

It certainly did Wednesday afternoon.

Eastern Wayne made one more shot and forced No. 4-ranked Rocky Mount into uncharacteristic mistakes during a 6-3 marathon victory in a matchup between two of the state's top-10 Class 3-A girls' tennis programs. The non-conference affair started in a light rain and finished under the lights at Walnut Creek Country Club around 9 p.m.

"I knew today was going to be a battle against a tough and well-coached team," EW head coach Craig Hassell said. "(RM) Coach (Barry) Nethercutt preaches consistent play and long rallies to wear down his opponent. I think our team met that challenge extremely well today. I told our team to be patient and don't rush their shots.

"We had some incredible rallies."

Incredible, indeed.

Top-seeded Faith Sutton dominated the Gryphons' Chandler Brice 6-1 in the opening set and held a 3-0 advantage in set two. Brice switched tactics, came into the net more and put away short volleys that frustrated Sutton.

Brice turned the three-game deficit into a 5-3 advantage. Sutton fended off three set points in the next game, which aggravated Brice, who commented that "she won't play my game." Sutton held serve and claimed the match when Brice's forehand return sailed least a foot behind the service line.

Cousin Savannah Sutton had an equally frustrating time at the No. 2 slot. Using a slicing forehand and backhand on every return, she managed to pull out a 6-4, 5-7, 10-7 win over Eliza Fike.

"Our players are learning how to change their game strategy to win and compete in close matches," Hassell said.

The No. 9-ranked Warriors seized a 4-2 lead heading into doubles after victories by fifth-seeded Debbie Mitchell and sixth-seeded Brennan Dove. The teams packed up their gear and headed to Walnut Creek to determine the outcome.

Eastern Wayne's tandems of F. Sutton-S. Sutton and Mitchell-B. Dove sealed the outcome in doubles play. The Suttons handed Brice and her sister, Tanner, an 8-6 loss at No. 1. Mitchell-B. Dove triumphed 8-4.

The Gryphons (2-1) won at Nos. 3 and 4 singles, and No. 2 doubles.

"I couldn't be more proud of this team today as they stepped up and beat a very good team," Hassell said. "Hopefully we can take the momentum of this win today and carry it over into tomorrow (today) as we return to conference play against Greenville Rose."

Match time is 4 p.m.