The East Wake girls tennis team picked off every member of the Knightdale roster except for one Diamond in the rough on Thursday.
Sophomore Diamond Oduok was the only Knight to win a match in her team’s 8-1 loss, taking down East Wake’s Maliaka Nzau (6-3, 6-0) on court No. 1.
“Consistently hitting the ball in the same spot,” said Oduok, singling out her key to victory. “I just kept hitting it to the same spot and making her run. It worked better for me.”
It’s not shocking Oduok saved Knightdale from the grief of a shutout. She is one of the top players in the conference, and it showed as she methodically carved out a win. Knightdale head coach Fatimah Cruz-Parker said Oduok sets a good example for her less experienced teammates.
“I think it’s extremely important for the girls on the bottom to see Diamond win,” Cruz-Parker said. “They see how hard she works and they know how hard she’s been working – at school and outside of school. For the most part, it motivates them.”
On court No. 2, Knightdale’s Kayla Larkins faced off against East Wake’s Kelly Daughtridge. Although Larkins may have been the stronger athlete, Daughtridge was more technically sound, allowing her to take an 8-6, 6-0 victory.
“We both had some really good hits,” said Daughtridge, a senior. “It was really even. Some of my hits were just far to the left or to the right and she couldn’t reach them.”
Warriors head coach Gerald Melton spoke of Daughtridge as one of the day’s standout performers.
“(She) really played strong,” Melton said. “She’s very athletic and she really competes.”
Another player that caught Melton’s eye was Eboni Montague, who outlasted Knightdale’s Lexxus Johnson, 7-6, 6-0, on court No. 3.
Johnson injured her ankle during the match, and Montague’s hustle provided the Warriors with a win.
“Eboni really hung in there for that long match,” Melton said.
East Wake’s Kayley Marchena, a high-energy competitor, took a mildly contested match with Knightdale’s Ravon Scarborough on court No. 4.
That, however, was the final semblance of opposition the Knights could muster in singles play. Warriors Kate Williams and Miranda Phillips served up shutouts on court Nos. 5 and 6, respectively, over Destiny Sledge and Aliyah Tutton.
In doubles, Oduok was out of heroics. With her usual teammate Johnson injured, Oduok teamed up with Sledge instead. Nzau and Montague made quick work of them on court No. 1, winning 8-1.
The No. 2 doubles match featured a closer contest, with East Wake’s Daughtridge and Marchena edging out Knightdale’s Larkins and Scarborough, 8-6.
The Knights trotted out two brand new players, Sadie Peña and Kimberly Mejorado, on doubles court No. 3. Williams and Phillips of East Wake won that match, 8-0.
“I thought we had more energy,” Melton said of his squad. “We competed real hard today, I thought.”