Salisbury tennis returns to state final
By Bret Strelow
BREVARD ó Shea Comadoll celebrated teammate Erika Nelson’s match-clinching win with a subtle shimmy.
Comadoll stopped dancing after a few seconds elapsed. She made a 180-degree turn and focused her attention on the one court that remained active.
A business-like approach against Brevard suited Salisbury well.
The Hornets advanced to the championship round of the 2A dual-team tennis playoffs for the fourth consecutive year by registering a 5-1 victory Thursday afternoon. They completed the three-hour drive to the mountains and then claimed the first five singles matches against the Blue Devils.
Salisbury (22-1) will face Cardinal Gibbons (19-4) at the Burlington Tennis Center on Saturday morning in a rematch of the 2006 final. The Hornets won that meeting but ended their 2005 and 2007 seasons with losses to Greene Central.
“I was pleased with the girls’ reactions after the match was over today,” Salisbury coach Chris Myers said. “There wasn’t too much jubilation. It was sort of like, ‘It’s great we won, but we’ve been playing all year for that last Saturday of the season.’
“We need to go get one more. This is great and we certainly enjoy being in the state finals four years, but we’re only 1-2, so we need to get it to .500.”
Gibbons, which recently relinquished the top spot in the 2A poll to Salisbury, advanced with a 6-3 win against Edenton Holmes in the Eastern final.
Victories by Comadoll (6-1, 6-1 against fourth-seeded Kate Treacy), Joy Loeblein (6-0, 6-1 against fifth-seeded Katie Honer) and Hannah Lebowitz (6-1, 6-1 against top-seeded Davis Clare Hyett) staked Salisbury to a comfortable lead in the Western final at Brevard College.
Second-seeded Kirstin Meyerhoeffer took the final three games to pull out a 6-2, 6-4 win against Julia Van Horn, and Nelson edged sixth-seeded Allie Barnes by a 6-2, 4-6, (10-6) score. Brevard’s Lauren Fuller capped singles with a 7-6 (7-3), 4-6, (10-6) decision against Brooke Johnson at No. 3.
“I think we’re all excited that we’ve made it again to the state championship because it’s definitely not an easy journey to get there,” Lebowitz said. “We’ve had to focus really hard on all of our matches.”
Nelson’s narrow victory prevented the need for doubles to be contested.
Barnes, a senior, trailed 2-1 in the second set before winning four straight games. Nelson, a freshman, took the next two to pull within 5-4.
The 10th game of the set went to four deuces, and Nelson had four chances on her serve to even the score at 5-all. Barnes capitalized on her first break-point opportunity and forced a third-set tiebreaker.
“I had to remember to have fun and not get mad at myself,” Nelson said. “I was hoping that I was going to win it, but I was still a little nervous of how the outcome was going to be.
“It was tough, but it’s fun to have tough matches sometimes.”
Nelson (26-2) has suffered her only losses against top-seeded foes in postseason singles tournaments. Olivia Myers, the No. 1 player at West Davidson, beat Nelson in the conference tournament and CCC champion Tiffany Vanhpraseuth of Ledford defeated Nelson in the regional quarterfinals.
Nelson has an 18-0 mark at No. 6 in dual-team matches, and she didn’t drop a game in 12 of those victories. She lost more than two games in a set from that spot in the order only once before Thursday.
“She was seemingly cruising along and (Barnes) just made some great adjustments and quit making any unforced errors,” Myers said. “It rattled Erika a little bit, and she got into a little bit of a hole in the second set that was too difficult to climb out of.
“She got herself calmed down, regained her composure and just played like she’s capable of in that third-set tiebreaker. Ultimately that’s going to do a lot more for her than coming out here and winning 6-0, 6-0.”