By the time the Big East Conference opener comes around, the jitters and nerves usually have been worked out for any team.
Everybody at Nash Central High School on Tuesday wasn’t settled though, because Nash Central and Rocky Mount High actually opened their season with conference games because of the cold weather that postponed multiple nonconference games.
While the jitters will be gone soon, both teams had a taste of what conference play will be like for the rest of the season – down-to-the-wire.
Rocky Mount pulled out the 6-3 victory, thanks to a sweep of doubles and two victories in tiebreak.
“It’s big to win the first game, the first match especially, to kind of start the season off right,” senior J.T. Smith said. “It’s pretty important to us.”
Smith highlighted the Gryphons’ rallies.
After losing the first set in singles, Smith won the second set in a tiebreak and then won a third-set tiebreak at No. 2 singles.
He teamed with Kevin Ramirez at No. 1 doubles, rallying from a 4-1 deficit to win, 9-7. Smith said he just tries to stick to the gameplan, which in Rocky Mount’s case is an aggressive attack.
“Tiebreak is a lot of luck,” Rocky Mount coach Barry Nethercutt said. “It’s a double fault here or a clean volley there. We just try to put as much pressure as we can on the other guys by attacking, attacking, attacking.”
Nash Central (1-0, 1-0 Big East), which defeated Rocky Mount, 5-4, in the first match between the teams last year, had three matches postponed from last week but carries an experienced lineup that includes five seniors and four players who have four years of varsity experience.
“I saw some intestinal fortitude,” said Nash Central coach Michael Mosley, who returned to the court after a 30-year absence. “We got behind early in some matches and were able to come back. ... We have some things that we need to be better at, but we have some heart, I think.”
Nash Central No. 4 Moe Alzner rallied to win after falling in the second set to win in tiebreak, and Alex Whitehead won five straight sets before losing to Smith at No. 2 singles in a tightly contest tiebreaker.
“The way they fought back in matches, that’s going to carry over to the other guys as the season goes on,” Nethercutt said of Smith and Chris Jacob, who won in a third-set tiebreaker as well.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org