Smithfield: Sports

Doubles comeback highlights big Cleveland tennis win

Kara Odham and Natalie Dershem hadn’t shown the potential to pull off the comeback the Cleveland No. 3 doubles team did in Wednesday’s win over Smithfield-Selma. But the Rams’ duo pulled it off and added another interesting side note to a dominating 8-1 victory over the Spartans in a Two Rivers 3A Conference match.

Dershem and Odham trailed Smithfield-Selma’s Lily Faulconer and Cameron Hoyt 6-1 in doubles, then didn’t lose another game in rallying for an 8-6 victory that gave Cleveland (8-2 overall, 6-1 conference) a doubles sweep.

“I didn’t say anything to them,” said Cleveland coach Emily Purvis. “I sat down when it was 6-1 because there’s only so much you can say at a point. Then they started playing well so I didn’t talk to them because I didn’t want to break up what they were doing.”

Cleveland rolled in the other two doubles matches with Victoria Dixon and Amber Reese defeating SSS’s Blair Bealsey and Anna Grubbs 8-2 at No. 1 doubles and Casey Queil and Christina Holbrook topping Caroline Carter and Erica Thomas, 8-1.

“Five of our top six are seniors and four of those seniors have been with me since their freshman year,” Purvis said. “So there’s a lot of on-court experience out there. They’ve learned to feed off of the energy between each other from court to court, even in singles. And that goes a long way.”

The Rams won five of the six singles matches in straight sets. Dixon, a freshman, topped Beasley, 6-0, 6-0, and Reese did the same at No. 2 against Faulconer. Queil, Holbrook and Reagan Neville also won in singles for Cleveland.

Thomas gave the Spartans (3-4 conference) their only win, a 6-1, 6-3 triumph over Odham at No. 5 singles.

“This was our first match with a full lineup and the season’s half over,” said SSS coach Linwood Stephenson. “We’ve been injured and sick in one way or another every week. But we really feel like now that we could win the rest of our matches.”

The Spartans’ Wednesday loss to Cleveland wrapped up their matches against the top two teams in the Two Rivers 3A this season. SSS has a key meeting with Corinth Holders coming up, plus meetings with South Johnston and Western Harnett left.