Garner Cleveland: Sports

Cleveland’s impressive start continues

Cleveland's Victoria Dixon returns a volley Thursday's non-conference match against West Johnston.
Cleveland's Victoria Dixon returns a volley Thursday's non-conference match against West Johnston. newsobserver.com

Cleveland tennis coach Emily Purvis doesn’t believe she has had enough time to determine who has made the most improvement in the Rams’ program this season.

But two matches into the season her team has already given her a barometer of what she could expect this season. The Rams jumped off to a 2-0 start with a 9-0 shutout of county rival West Johnston Thursday.

Utilizing a lineup consisting of a freshman and six seniors, the Rams dropped seven games in eight matches, before the Wildcats’ third-flight doubles team of Heather Gibbs and Sabria Brown gave Reagan Neville and Natalie Dershem fits before falling, 8-5.

“The girls did very well,” Purvis said. “We had a conference match yesterday (an 8-1 triumph over Two Rivers 3A Conference rival Smithfield-Selma), so you are always apprehensive about having matches back-to-back. But they did very well, they worked hard, came in and got the job done.”

The Rams didn’t seem to have any problems with fatigue, with freshman Victoria Dixon winning at No. 1 singles, 6-0, 6-0 over West sophomore Katherine Serrell, and Neville, a senior at No. 6, doing the same against Gibbs.

Seniors Amber Reese and Casey Quiels just missed shutout efforts, with Reese turning back Ashley Turner at No. 2, 6-1, 6-0. Quiels defeated Sabrina Fink at No. 3 by a 6-0, 6-1 score.

Reese and Quiels were regional qualifiers for the Rams in the 2012 NCHSAA 3A Individual Tournament.

Christina Holbrook and Kara Odham, seniors at Nos. 4 and 5, both recorded 6-1, 6-1 wins over the Wildcats’ Sarah Kuhanek and Veronica McLean, respectively, to clinch the overall meet for the Rams with the singles sweep.

Despite the overall ease of the victory, Purvis said the match was a great learning tool for her squad.

“It’s good for the players to get any type of hitting in,” Purvis said. “And it’s always good to be in a match situation, especially when I have so many seniors who need the work.”

Part of the work the team needed, Purvis said, was to learn sportsmanship, how to keep score and fundamentals of a tennis match.

“It also gives them a chance to work on controlling the ball,” Purvis said. “Sometimes when you play really tough opponents, all you can do during a point is to stick out the racquet and hope for the best.

“Today, the girls got to get in some work on controlling the ball – when and how to place it – it’s awesome for them to be able and get in some work on that.”

Rounding out the match wins for Cleveland were the No. 1 doubles team of Dixon and Reese defeating Serrell and Turner, 8-1, while Quiels and Holbrook blanked Fink and McLean, 8-0.

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