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Gryphons tennis finds new ace, pick up where it left off

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Rocky Mount High's Caroline Broderick makes contact with the ball during her singles match against Northern Nash Tuesday at Rocky Mount High Scool.

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By PATRICK MASON
Sports Writer

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Caroline Broderick’s expression didn’t change much during her No. 1 singles win over Northern Nash’s Grayson Tanner on Tuesday. Her win helped Rocky Mount High to a 9-0 victory, keeping pace with 3-A Big East Conference leader Wilson Fike.

Whether the Gryphons sophomore scored a point or allowed a point, Broderick’s attitude didn’t waver.

That wasn’t always the case. Broderick remembers a match last season where things got out of control. She lost a No. 4 singles in a tie-breaker, and she didn’t handle the outcome well.

“I was pretty emotional,” Broderick said. “It was a tough match and I lost control. I tried my hardest, and it didn’t work out. I had to compose myself enough to play doubles right after, and that’s when it hit me that I can’t do things this way.”

Broderick made an effort to eliminate outbursts like the one last season from her game. Add in a summer spent honing her craft on the courts, and Broderick has the makings of an emerging star as the Gryphons No. 1 singles player.

The sophomore worked on volleys and perfecting various shots almost daily with her older sister and teammate Mary Katherine Broderick, as well as her mother, who was a state doubles champion as a high schooler in Texas.

“Caroline is everything you expect a No. 1 singles player to be,” Gryphons coach Wayne Holloman said. “She is a very calm influence, and has elevated her game. She has turned into a more complete player, which is something you have to be when you play at No. 1.”

Broderick has lost just one match this season, a narrow 5-4 loss against Fike. The 11-0 Demons are the only team to beat the Gryphons this season. The teams meet for a key rematch in Wilson on Sept. 28. with conference implications.

But the Gryphons find themselves as a conference power, winning all but one match by 9-0 margins. This comes on the heels after losing the top two singles players to graduation in Sarah Bland and Grace Warner. With those two at the top of the lineup, RMH posted a 14-3 record last season.

Holloman, who is in his first season guiding the Gryphons after taking over for longtime coach Barry Nethercutt, has big plans for the season. As a former player for Nethercutt, Holloman knows the game well and has implemented big ideas to keep the RMH tennis factory churning.

He spotted Broderick’s rise almost right away and knew that the former No. 4 had the guile and physical skills to make the jump to No. 1. One of her bigger strengths is being able to keep volleys alive long enough to find a crack in her opponent's game before delivering the kill shot.

“I had to be much more of a consistent player,” Broderick said. “I never thought I’d be at No. 1 so quickly. I just wanted to play, so it wasn’t hard for me to want to work on things.”

Another of Holloman’s mark can be found on the doubles courts, where Lauryn Clark plays with Broderick. Clark, a senior who plays No. 4 singles, is an asset on the top doubles pairing. Her game is based around power, which complements Broderick’s methodical style.

The pair owns a 5-1 record this season, with the latest coming against the Knights’ Tanner and Nisaja Thomas, Northern’s No. 2 singles player.

And Clark hasn’t been overwhelmed by the jump from No. 4 to No. 1. While most top players also play together in doubles, Clark generally plays against a new opponent.

Broderick’s ability to sustain volleys helps Clark figure on an opponent on the fly, and by the time the match is several points old, the Gryphons’ pair has a plan in place.

“Right away we fit together,” Clark said. “Caroline’s a good player, and it’s nice to be able to rely on a teammate during matches instead of by yourself in singles. I can figure some things out in warmups, and others as we get going.”

The pair still has the ability to tap into some new strategies, which would make for an exciting finish in the Big East.

“All of these girls bought in to what we’re going,” Holloman said. “We really work hard, and I think that any of these girls out here has a legitimate chance to win on any given day against anybody.”

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