News-Star: Sports

Clayton falls to Apex in 4A dual team tennis playoffs

Apex’s experience in tournament play made a big difference Thursday as the Cougars downed Clayton 5-1 in the opening round of the NCHSAA 4A dual team girls tennis playoffs.

The Comets finished their team season with a 17-1 record.

“We competed well against Apex, but their players have more U.S. Tennis Association tournament experience than our younger players,” said Clayton coach Ken Stivason. “And that enabled them to win the critical points in a lot of the long rallies.”

Apex, a wild card entry from the tough Southwestern Wake Athletic Conference, won every singles match with the exception of the No. 1 match with Clayton standout sophomore Carmelle Joyner defeating Apex junior Melissa Romano, 6-3, 6-3.

“It was a very competitive match (at No. 1 singles),” Stivason said.

Apex’s Elizabeth Johnson beat the Comets’ lone senior, Maya Guha, 6-0, 6-1, at No. 2, while Carla Thomas earned a 6-0, 6-3 triumph at No. 3 against Katherine Riley.

Natalie Melech of Apex, a sophomore, beat Clayton freshman Sydney Rushing, 6-0, 6-1, at No. 4. Clayton sophomores Stephanie Wilder and Hannah Kellum fell at No. 5 and 6 singles, respectively.

“Our three first-year starters freshman Sydney Rushing, and sophomores Stephanie Wilder and Hannah Kellum, have all improved from the beginning of the season and they should be even better next year,” Stivason said. “We will miss four-year starter Maya Guha.”

All six Comets participated in the individual regionals this past weekend. And Clayton’s Greater Neuse River 4A Conference championship was its seventh straight.

“We are returning five starters and will be led by Carmelle Joyner and Katherine Riley,” Stivason said, “and have sophomore Andrea Villasuso, and freshman Meredith Wood and Kaylee Estes to compete for the sixth starting position. We should compete with West Johnston for the Conference Championship again next year.”

Corinth Holders was swept in the first round of the state 3A dual playoffs on Tuesday. Corinth Holders fell to Northern Guilford 6-0. The Pirates finished the season with a 10-5 record.