Granted, many high schools have programs that, for whatever reason, aren't strong. It's hard for every sport to compete at a high level all the time. But considering what happened at Sunset Park on Tuesday afternoon, the Nash Central girls' tennis team has to be feeling pretty good about itself.
The Bulldogs (6-0, 1-0 Big East) beat the Rocky Mount High Gryphons for the first time in program history, and did so in convincing fashion – 9-0.
The win wasn't just important for historic purposes, but also because coach Susan McCarthy has her hard-hitting girls off to a fantastic start in the middle of a trying week. The Bulldogs face Greenville Rose on Wednesday and Wilson Fike on Thursday.
As for the Gryphons, expectations have been tempered because the team graduated some top-notch seniors and is still learning the game. Especially doubles. Which may be part of the reason Rocky Mount coach Barry Nethercutt has implemented a new strategy on the doubles court. Like a top-secret barbecue recipe that chefs don't dare tell a soul, Nethercutt wouldn't reveal the specifics of his plan. Basically, the net girl stands in front of the server and the two are in a straight line as the play begins. Interesting to see, for sure. Here is how Nethercutt explained (some of) it:
"It’s something I came up with. It’s designed to confuse the returner as to which way we’re going. The return comes back and we have three choices on what we’re going to do with the shot depending on where they return it. It’s a new strategy that we’re working on. Maybe we can go to it every now and then and get a point or two."
While Netercutt and his team are working on different ways to improve their doubles play, it was singles that looked fairly shaky on Tuesday. The Bulldogs simply had too much power.
"I think the whole match was a combination of them, with the big forehands and big serves. We didn’t have good footwork and hit a couple balls into the net that we couldn’t get back deep. I don’t know that I did such a great job on some courts coaching either," Nethercutt said.
As for McCarthy and her Bulldogs...
"I’m very lucky with a young team that’s very strong the whole way through. I know they are pretty strong. They have a pretty good team right now. Anything is possible. That’s what I keep believing. Anything is possible."
Notes: Caroline Bell and Lizzie Eakin played the only tiebreaker of the afternoon, and it was a wild one. Partly because both players were hitting solid returns, and partly because it seemed everyone in the crowd and on the court had a different idea of what the score was. When it appeared Bell has the game won, 10-8, Nethercutt walked away, only to turn his back and find the girls still battling. Then, when it appeared Bell had won again, and again, and again (she won four-straight points after the supposed 10-8 win) she hadn't. Until eventually, Eakin went in the books with an 11-9 triumph. Nethercutt believes it is because the kind-hearted Bell needs to assert herself more on the court. She's so quiet, she sometimes doesn't call balls out that should have been called out. And on this day, her second third-set tiebreaker in three matches, it cost her a win.