WENDELL — In a match that took until sundown to decide, the East Wake girls’ tennis team hung on long enough to claim a 7-2 victory over Knightdale on Wednesday.
It was the final match of the season for both teams, and East Wake (8-8, 8-6 Greater Neuse River 4A) took the opportunity to honor its seniors during the Warriors’ final home-court stand of 2013.
“It was senior day, so the girls were really excited,” Warriors coach Matt Walton said. “I had to get them to focus on tennis and the match at hand. We had to do all of this amidst the excitement.”
On the other side of the net, the Knights (5-9, 5-9) had no intentions of letting the top of East Wake’s order off the hook easily.
Knightdale senior Rosalyn Hatlen, who recently tore an abdominal muscle, recovered from a first set shutout despite limited mobility to claim a singles victory (0-6, 6-3, 10-5) over East Wake senior Alexis Montague on court No. 1.
“I’d say we were pretty evenly matched,” Hatlen said. “We both took a set, obviously, so I think it was a hard match for both of us.”
The No. 2 singles match turned into a marathon between seniors Shelly Guo and Bethany McGlyn. Guo after three hours was able to notch another win for the Knights, 7-6, 3-6, 10-4.
The Knights’ luck ended there, however, as the Warriors rolled through the rest of the singles lineup.
East Wake’s No. 3 Jackie West triumphed over Lechonda Council (6-0, 6-0) and No. 4 Essence O’Neal knocked off Lexxus Johnson (6-0, 6-0). Sammie Smith claimed a 6-0, 6-1 win over Tashaia Dunn on court No. 5 and Akela Smith finished off the lineup with a 7-6, 6-0 win over Knightdale No. 6 Kayla Larkins.
West and Sammie Smith teamed up for a 8-2 win over Council and Johnson at No. 2 doubles. Their teammates Akela Smith and Mariah Green denied Knightdale’s Larkins and Brieanna Salmon in the third doubles match, 8-2. On court No. 1, the top-two Warriors exacted revenge on the Knightdale seniors who stole victories in singles play.
“We both were like, ‘We got to win this,’” Montague said.
The thought of going winless on senior day was never an option for Montague and McGlyn. Rebounding versus Hatlen and Guo posed a formidable challenge, though.
The volleys flew back-and-forth as the sun dropped on the horizon. With daylight running out, Walton and Knightdale head coach Martin Faison were forced to agree upon a premature tiebreaker, which Montague and McGlyn ultimately won, 11-9.
“It was awesome,” Montague said. “A great way to end the (regular) season.”
There will be a postseason for Montague, McGlyn, Hatlen and Guo, as those Warriors and Knights will represent their schools in the conference tournament on Monday, Oct. 7. They will compete in both singles and doubles matches. The top five qualifiers in both will move on to regional competition held at Millbrook High School.
While McGlyn says her goal is to simply make it past the first round of the league tournament, Faison holds higher hopes for his top-two players after their strong showing versus East Wake.
“I definitely feel like we will be competing in regionals at Millbrook,” Faison said.