Before Rocky Mount’s girls’ tennis match Tuesday against Wilson Hunt, Gryphons coach Barry Nethercutt would have taken a 5-4 victory and been ecstatic.
Not because of the product but the process, Nethercutt felt like he would have to find a way to be happy waking up today with the Gryphons’ 5-4 victory at Rocky Mount High School.
Rocky Mount found itself overwhelmed with frustration or anger on occasion and thrown off balance by an under-manned Warriors lineup. The Gryphons still managed to pull back into a tie for first place in the Big East Conference, retaking control of its own destiny.
“Of course, I’m happy that we got the win,” Nethercutt said. “I wasn’t happy with the way we played at too many courts (Tuesday).”
Rocky Mount (10-2, 6-1 Big East) won four of the six singles matches despite playing in three tie-breakers in the process.
Tanner Brice won a pair of tie-breakers at No. 4 singles to conclude singles action with a victory against Wilson Hunt’s Emily Batchlor, 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-2).
“We had to beat them in order to be conference champs,” Brice said. “That’s what we are shooting for. It helped to push us up.”
Whether it was the boiling emotion of playing rival Wilson Hunt or having to deal with a late change to the Warriors’ lineup, which was caused by Wilson Hunt’s original No. 2 player missing the match, the Gryphons seemed off balance for much of the contest.
“It kind of threw us off,” Brice said. “We had strategies for the girls we played last time.”
Rocky Mount held on to the lead only because Allison Binkley and Katie Mizelle were able to win, 8-4, at No. 3 doubles. The Gryphons lost their other two doubles matches.
“We just didn’t play as well as we’ve been playing in a lot of courts, especially in doubles,” Nethercutt said.
The result – Rocky Mount handing Wilson Hunt (10-2, 5-1) its first conference loss – still outweighed the process.
“We had a couple matches where we played well, but in other matches, we were angry at singles. We were easily frustrated at singles,” Nethercutt said. “It wasn’t typical us. I don’t know if the girls felt so much pressure knowing we had to win this to tie for first or what. We’ve talked about it and worked hard to know what we had to do (Tuesday).”
“At too many courts, we didn’t do what we worked on in practice.”
Still, Rocky Mount will prepare for its final three conference matches, including a road contest against Northern Nash, with the knowledge that it doesn’t need any help to be co-conference champions at the very least.
Rocky Mount held on Tuesday thanks to solid play from the lower portion of its lineup. Binkley won at No. 5 singles and Mizelle won at No. 6 singles. Neither really was challenged, losing a combined eight games in four sets.
Eliza Fike also won at No. 2 singles despite nearly being pushed to a tiebreak in the first set.
“This was our big match,” she said.
The Gryphons just didn’t always play like it.
Still, Rocky Mount came away with arguably the most important victory of the season.
“I gotta kinda look at the big picture,” Nethercutt said. “We didn’t play well, but we won.”
Rocky Mount High 5
Wilson Hunt 4
Singles: Taylor Love (WH) def. Chandler Brice, 6-1, 6-2; Eliza Fike (RMH) def. Staisha Cain, 7-5, 6-1; Emma Lentz (WH) def. Mary Blair Thompson, 7-6 (9-7), 7-5; Tanner Brice (RMH) def. Emily Batchlor, 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-2); Allison Binkley (RMH) def. Megan Parker, 6-1, 6-2; Katie Mizelle (RMH) def. Jordi Brick, 6-4, 6-4.
Doubles: Love/Cain (WH) def. Brice/Brice, 8-2; Batchlor/Parker (WH) def. Fike/Thompson, 8-6; Binkley/Mizelle (RMH) def. Lentz/Brick, 8-4.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org