Walker, Sutton cousins emerge 3A east regional tennis champions
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 21, 2013 1:48 PM
ROCKY MOUNT -- Stay positive.
Play my style.
Do the best I can.
Ashton Walker executed her strategy to perfection and walked away with her second consecutive Class 3-A eastern regional singles championship late Saturday afternoon.
Walker upended top-seeded Taylor Love 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in the title match contested at Belmont Farms Racquet Club. The Charles B. Aycock junior heads to next week's N.C. High School Athletic Association championships in Burlington as the East's top seed for the second straight year.
She won't be alone.
Eastern Wayne's tandem of Faith and Savannah Sutton secured the regional's doubles crown with a 6-2, 6-2 triumph over Rocky Mount's sister duo of Chandler and Tanner Brice. Sutton-Sutton remained unbeaten in 19 outings this season.
The two-day regional opened Friday afternoon at the Barton College Tennis Complex. Inclement weather forced the players to travel up Highway 301 to Belmont Farms, an indoor facility behind N.C. Wesleyan College.
Love handed Walker (20-3 overall) one of her three losses during regular-season play. Aware the two could meet again, Walker knew she had to play a steady game, but also step outside of her comfort zone.
A baseline player who prefers to work an opponent corner to corner, Walker changed the tempo on occasion and tripped up Love with a few drop shots. The two exchanged long rallies and battled for 3 1/2 hours before a champion was decided.
"I don't know how we mentally and physically stayed out there as long as we did," Walker said. "It was a tough match, could have gone either way. We both played great tennis and it was definitely the best I've played in a while.
"Taylor is a great player."
Walker, the No. 2 seed, opened regional play with back-to-back shutouts against Jacksonville's Kate Reeves and Hunt's Kelsey Lineberger, respectively. She dispatched Nash Central's Kaley Price 6-1, 6-1 in the semifinals.
Love dropped just one game in six sets and reached the finals with a 6-0, 6-0 conquest of Cleveland's Victoria Dixon.
"Ashton played the best in regionals and particularly today than I have ever seen her play," CBA first-year head coach Summer Pennington said. "She played with poise and confidence all the way through the tournament. I was pleased and proud of the way she fought back after losing the opening set of the finals.
"Her determination to outlast her opponent was what got her through the match."
After a fourth-place finish in last year's regional, F. Sutton-S. Sutton experienced little trouble during their first- and second-round matches. The Eastern Wayne combo reached the championship with a 6-4, 7-5 defeat of Rocky Mount's Eliza Fike-Mary Blair Thompson in the semifinals.
Sutton-Sutton secured the crown with a dominating effort in the finals.
"Faith and Savannah played extremely well in all facets of the game on Saturday," EW head coach Craig Hassell said. "Both young ladies moved well, had great hands at the net and tremendous shot-making for solid play. They picked a good time to rise to the occasion."
The Warriors' duo of sisters McKenna and Cameron Dove tumbled in quarterfinal-round play. They defeated eliminated West Craven before falling 6-4, 6-4 to White Oak's Taylor Blackmon-Sabrina Yager, the regional's No. 2 seed.
Southern Wayne's Hope Jones lost to Triton's Byrd 6-2, 6-1 in the first round.
Third-ranked Eastern Wayne (16-0 overall) continues the NCHSAA dual-team portion of its schedule at home Tuesday against No. 1-ranked Cardinal Gibbons. First serve is 4 p.m.
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