Smithfield-Selma pulls away from East Wake in doubles play

amoody@newsobserver.comSeptember 22, 2013 

— The Spartans swept the doubles portion of Thursday’s tennis match against East Wake to win, 6-3, but things couldn’t have been much closer up to that point.

The former conference opponents split the singles matches, with two pairings decided in third-set tiebreakers. There were five tiebreakers in the singles round, which lasted two hours and 40 minutes.

“I’ve been coaching here for eight years, and I’ve never seen this many tiebreakers,” Smithfield-Selma coach Linwood Stephenson said.

It was an appropriate outcome for two teams with similar records, also facing similar lineup issues. For East Wake (4-5, 4-4 Greater Neuse River 4A), the match was played without No. 3 Jackie West and No. 5 Sammie Smith, both seniors. West was out due to illness, and Smith had other obligations.

“We have not had a match where we’ve put our top six on the court,” East Wake coach Matt Walton said. “Unfortunately we haven’t been able to see what we can really do.”

The Spartans (6-6, 3-4 Two Rivers 3A) had just come off their first two matches of the season with a full lineup, but were forced to play the Warriors without their No. 2, Lily Faulconer, who hurt her heel in the preseason and was unable to compete.

East Wake’s Alexis Montague cruised, 6-2, in the first set of the No. 1 singles match, but Blair Beasley regrouped and opened a 3-0 lead in the second set. Beasley turned that into a 6-2 win of her own, and then held off Montague in a 10-7 third-set tiebreaker.

“What was hard was (Montague) knew how to place the ball, and I was pretty much beating myself with my own mistakes early,” Beasley said. “Then I made a run with deep shots, so she wasn’t able to slice it or place it as well.”

East Wake escaped on the good end of the same situation in the No. 2 singles match as Bethany McGlyn split two 6-3 sets with the Spartans’ Anna Grubbs before taking the third-set showdown 10-8. At No. 3, Smithfield-Selma’s Erica Thomas eased to a 6-1, 7-5 victory over Essence O’Neal.

The No. 4 singles match was the longest of the day. It took East Wake’s Malaika Nzau nearly an hour and a half to top Caroline Carter 7-6 (7-5) in their first set, and as long to claim the second set 7-6 (11-9).

Akela Smith gave the Warriors their third singles win, beating Ashley Ball 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) at the No. 5 spot, and the Spartans’ No. 6 Sarah Mills breezed past Kate Williams 6-1, 6-0.

Beasley and Grubbs denied the greatest threat by the Warriors in doubles action as they defeated Montague and McGlyn, 8-6, in the No. 1 match.

Thomas and Carter teamed up for a shutout of O’Neal and Smith in the No. 2 doubles match, and the duo of Cameron Hoyt and Ball won 8-2 over Nzau and Williams.

Moody: 919-829-4806

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