East tennis falls to Lake Norman
By Bret Strelow
GRANITE QUARRY ó Laurie Wyrick is in only her first season as East Rowan’s girls tennis coach, but she still harbored hope for a repeat.
East, the defending NPC champ, fell 6-3 to Lake Norman in a matchup of previously unbeaten conference co-leaders Tuesday.
Emily Beck participated in a pair of victories to lead East, which trailed 4-2 at the end of singles play. Lake Norman’s doubles team of Kathryn Talbert, the state’s top-ranked college prospect, and Hayley Hammond delivered a clinching win against Emilee Smith-Hannah Kovach shortly thereafter.
“I’m very proud of this team,” Wyrick said. “I wanted it for them really bad and wanted them to go back-to-back. (Lake Norman) was a little stronger.”
Beck, seeded fourth, and fellow senior Caitlyn Fry, seeded fifth, picked up singles wins for East Rowan (7-1, 5-1 NPC). Beck won 6-2, 6-1 against Britta Huibers, and Fry collected a 6-0, 6-2 victory against Regan Patterson.
Beck-Brittany Honeycutt won 8-6 against the second-seeded tandem of Huibers-Shruthi Rajan after Talbert-Hammond gave Lake Norman (11-0, 6-0 NPC) a 5-1 advantage with an 8-1 triumph against Smith-Kovach.
“With Emily, it’s like a guarantee,” Wyrick said. “You can always count on Emily. Caitlyn has been awesome for her first year. She’s done nothing but improve every match. She’s like that brick wall that you can’t get it by.”
Fry and Devan Corpening nearly pulled out a win at No. 3 doubles, but Patterson-Morgan Vlaich overcame a 6-3 deficit in a 9-7 victory.
Five of East’s top six players entered Tuesday with unblemished singles records. Beck and Fry are now 8-0.
“We have a determined team, and our hearts are in it,” Beck said. “We love tennis, and it’s about determination.
“(Fry) has improved a lot. I know she hasn’t been in the top six before, but she knows the pressure and can handle the pressure really well.”
Talbert, a transfer from Statesville Christian who has received scholarship offers from Florida State, North Carolina and Wake Forest, prevailed 6-0, 6-0 against Smith. Talbert hasn’t surrendered a singles game this season, and a successful drop shot by Smith evened the opening game at 30-all. Smith pushed another game to deuce.
East took a short-lived lead over the Wildcats, the fourth-ranked team in 3A, thanks to the efforts of Beck and Fry.
Rajan, the only remaining Lake Norman player who competed in an 8-1 loss to the Mustangs last season, then closed out a 6-3, 6-4 victory against Kovach at No. 2. Moments later, Hammond exited the courts with a 6-3, 3-6, (10-3) win against Honeycutt at No. 3.
Sixth-seeded Laurel Rowe capped singles with a 6-1, 6-0 decision against Corpening.
“East was the defending champions, and last year they beat us pretty soundly, so we knew what kind of team they were,” Lake Norman coach Lezlie Carroll said.
“One player doesn’t make a team ó we love that (Talbert) came, but we only returned one player out of our top eight, so we’re all rebuilt this year. I have to admit they’ve exceeded my expectations. I didn’t expect to be at this place at this time.”
Lake Norman and East Rowan already have defeated Mooresville, which sits in third place with a 4-2 record.
The Mustangs, who will face North Iredell today, have tests with Statesville and Northwest Cabarrus left on their schedule.
“It’s disappointing to lose, but I know we’ll still do well as a team,” said Smith, who held serve once to prevent Talbert-Hammond from winning 8-0 at No. 1 doubles.
“We have a fairly new team ó everybody except the top two has a new position. Coming out with a fresh start, we’ve done very well.”