West Johnston appeared to have Clayton in just the position it wanted in Wednesday afternoon’s Greater Neuse River 4A Conference girls tennis match: in a tight match heading toward doubles play.
But then the Comets did what they’ve been doing for nearly six years running now: win almost every match that they possibly could.
Clayton stayed unbeaten on the season with a 8-1 win over the Wildcats, moving to 4-0 in the league and 7-0 overall.
“Our match was closer than the final score of 8-1 indicated as the 3-6 singles matches were all very close but we happened to win three of the four,” said veteran Clayton coach Ken Stivason. “We need to continue to work on improving our doubles play, but against West Johnston today our three doubles teams played their best matches of the season so far winning 8-1, 8-0 and 8-1.”
West sophomore Carrington Mack earned the Wildcats’ victory in that stretch of tight singles matches: a 6-3, 1-6, 10-8 triumph over Crystal Anderson. West fell to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the conference with the loss.
Other than that, it was all Clayton with Hannah Riley fighting off Sabrina Fink, 65-47-5, at No. 4 and Jackie Rollins taking a 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) win over Ariel Andrews.
“The addition of freshman Hannah Riley at No. 4 has helped to fill the gap in the singles from the graduation of her older sister, Katherine,” Stivason said.
Senior Hannah Kellum won the key games in a 6-2, 6-4 win over Audrey Rntz at No. 6.
Top-seeded Carmelle Joyner, a three-time GNRC singles champion, downed West sophomore Jessica Reese, 6-1, 6-0, at No. 1 and Sydney Rushing took the No. 2 sinlges match, 6-0, 6-1.
“We are off to a good start to date,” Stivason said. “Our singles play has been very consistent, and we have been working on doubles to improve our doubles teams overall court coverage and net play. We have more balance and depth in the bottom of the starting lineup as there is little drop off from my No. 6 starter through my No. 11 player.”
“The lower seeded girls worked hard over the summer and they have all improved.”
The doubles wins went to Rushing and Anderson at No. 1 over West’s Reese and Juarez, 8-1, Joyner and Rollins at No. 2, 8-0, over Fink and Andrews, and Kellum and Wilder, 8-1, over Mack and Blair Wright.
The victory pushed Clayton’s consecutive Greater Neuse River 4A Conference dual match win streak to 96.
Clayton could hit the century mark for the streak on Sept. 19 at Harnett Central. Between now and then, the Comets have a big test on Sept. 7 against Rolesville, one of the teams Stivason expects to be in the conference championship race along with the Comets and Wildcats.
Clayton has matches against Southeast Raeigh and East Wake between those two tilts.