The final week of the season is important for any team.
Teams that are headed to the playoffs want to stay sharp, while teams that are headed home need to know that their progress was for something.
Both Northern Nash and Rocky Mount High left the court at Rocky Mount High School confident Thursday after an 8-1 Gryphons’ victory.
Northern Nash knows that it is poised for success next year, and Rocky Mount feels a little better after learning that its unexpected first-round opponent in the 3-A NCHSAA state playoffs will be Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons, the two-time defending state champion.
“(It) has been a really good indicator of us taking another step and getting ready for the playoffs,” Rocky Mount High coach Barry Nethercutt said of his team’s past two victories. “We had our best match of the year (Wednesday) against Southern (Nash).”
Along with improving as a team, senior Mackenzie Warner, who was playing in her final home match, made sure she made the proper adjustments. Warner, the Gryphons’ No. 1, lost her first meeting against Sarah Hinson, the Knights’ No. 1. Warner rebounded with a 6-1, 6-3 victory Thursday against Hinson.
“This is what we’ve been trying to do all season, and I think we finally got it this week,” Warner said.
Nethercutt told his team Monday that the Gryphons (13-2, 8-2), who have lost only to Nash Central this season, had 29 days to prepare for a rematch with the Bulldogs. But after an unexpected bracket change, the Gryphons drew Cardinal Gibbons.
“Going into the playoffs, especially when we have such a tough match coming up, we need to be at the top of our game,” Warner said.
While Rocky Mount High prepares for the playoffs, Northern Nash (3-10, 2-7) prepares for next year. The Knights will play Southern Nash on Monday before the individual conference tournament begins Tuesday in Barton. In the final weeks of the season, coach Henry Drake has seen plenty on which to build.
“We’re hitting the ball very well,” Drake said. “ ... That’s what I want them to be. I want them to see a difference from where they start to where they are now.”
Rocky Mount High 8
Northern Nash 1
Singles: Mackenzie Warner (RM) def. Sarah Hinson 6-1, 6-3; Isabel Marrero (NN) def. Tanner Brice 6-0, 6-4; Chandler Brice (RM) def. Lauren Phillips 6-0, 6-0; Eliza Fike (RM) def. Robin Jones 6-3, 6-0; Mary Blair Thompson (RM) def. Molly Wilson 6-0, 6-0; Sam Whicker (RM) def. Sarah Spain 6-2, 6-1.
Doubles: Warner/C. Brice (RM) def. Hinson/Marrero 8-2; T. Brice/Fike (RM) def. Phillips./Jones 8-1; Sarah Greener/Caroline Phillips (RM) def. Wilson/Spain 8-5.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or email@example.com