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The vaunted doubles reputation of the Beddingfield High girls tennis team withstood a supreme challenge in a marathon of more than three hours and 30 minutes on a late-summer Thursday afternoon on the Beddingfield courts.
The Lady Bruins’ No. 1 duo of seniors Karissa Hayes-Yaqueline Rangel shook off 3-2, 5-4 and 6-5 deficits to triumph 8-6 and clinch a 5-4 2-A Eastern Plains Conference thriller from defending champion North Johnston.
Beddingfield took command of the conference race by claiming two of the three doubles matches. The Lady Bruins entered 17-1 in doubles this season and Thursday afternoon’s loss at No. 2 represented the first time a regular Beddingfield doubles pairing has tasted defeat this season.
In the first meeting at North Johnston, Beddingfield also prevailed 5-4 by sweeping the doubles. That match lingered four hours. The outcome was decided when Beddingfield’s No. 2 tandem of seniors Cathy Nicholson-Jaylah Moore erased a 7-6 deficit to rule 9-7.
“Wow!” Beddingfield head coach Jeremy Howard responded. “We needed to win five matches, and we just did it a different way. This was a reversal from last time in that we did it at No. 1 and not at No. 2.”
“Another one,” lamented North Johnston coach David Anderson. “I can’t take this. But we played really hard and I am really proud of the girls.”
With Hayes remaining unbeaten (7-0) in singles and doubles, the Lady Bruins climbed to 4-0 in the conference and 7-0 overall. North Johnston tumbled to 1-2 and 7-5, respectively.
“Unless everyone of his players in the top seven or eight get sick and can’t play, they’ve got (the conference championship),” Anderson remarked tongue-in-cheek of Beddingfield’s title chances.
With the score knotted 3-3 after singles, Beddingfield briskly seized a 4-3 margin with an 8-1 conquest behind the No. 3 pair of senior Vanessa Urieta-sophomore Annie Greene.
But the outcomed hinged at No. 1 when the Lady Panthers’ No. 2 tandem of junior Samantha Davis-sophomore Arial Pearce claimed revenge against Nicholson-Moore by an 8-3 margin. Pearce’s athleticism and Davis’ placement and ability to rifle unreturnable shots into the doubles alleys spelled defeat for the Lady Bruins.
At No. 1, Beddingfield’s Hayes-Rangel sputtered after winning the first two games. But the Lady Bruins rebounded when Rangel responded to Hayes’ pep talk, and both settled with steadier play.
“I kept telling Yaq we did it the first time and we could do it again,” Hayes commented. “If not, don’t fall back and no hard feelings. But we did good! I had to talk her up a little bit. I told her she needed to angle her net shots — and she started doing it. And she started getting her line shots in.”
Beddingfield’s top combo was challenged to handle Gachuz’s rocket serves. Both duos rallied in games 10 and 11 with the Lady Panthers and Beddingfield winning, respectively.
The combination of Hayes’ serving and Rangel’s net play produced a 6-6 standoff. The same strategy clicked for the Lady Bruins the next two games. Rangel’s deep service returns set up Hayes to finish at the net.
“I don’t know if it was scary, but we knew what was coming for us,” Hayes assured. “The last time, I kind of cried. We just won a different way; it feels really good.”
Anderson iterated that North Johnston practices since the first 5-4 loss to Beddingfield have emphasized doubles.
“We just need a little more playing together,” he reasoned, “but the chemistry is improving. Their No. 1 player (Hayes) is great, but my girls hung right in there.”
Of the late shift in momentum, Anderson responded: “It’s a mental game. A couple of hard points here and there got our heads out of it and let them have rallies. But I am still proud of them.”
As Howard mentioned, easily overlooked were Beddingfield singles wins from Moore at No. 3 and Urieta at No. 6. Moore utilized her quickness and athleticism to turn in her best performance of the season in stopping Davis 6-4, 6-3. Urieta was first off the court, dispensing with Holland, 6-1, 6-4.
Hayes and Teruel volleyed for over two hours before Hayes emerged victorious 6-4, 6-3.
For North Johnston, Gachuz, at No. 2, extended her undefeated streak to 12 matches by a 6-1, 6-0 count against Rangel. Gachuz dominated with her explosive serve and deep shots.
“I got a few serves in,” Gachuz noted. “When it was on, it was good. But it was not very good today. I just hit the ball deep and just kept hitting it over the net. I played pretty well.”
At No. 4, Pearce, a left-hander, dispensed with Beddingfield’s Nicholson, 7-5, 6-0.
Lady Panthers sophomore Alexis Dixon, in her first match of the season, overcame Beddingfield sophomore Annie Greene 2-6, 6-4, (10-8) at No. 5. Dixon stepped into the lineup with Hannah Sherrod absent because of the death of her father. Dixon proceeded to hand Greene her first loss after six wins.
“I got tired,” Greene admitted. “She was running me around and just wore me out.”
However, Greene atoned by teaming with Urieta for a crucial doubles win.
“I just had to block (the loss) out of my mind,” Greene explained. “It’s about what is good for the team. The only thing that matters is the team. The doubles really meant more because we’re known for our doubles. Vanessa did great at the net and I’m good at the back. We got super good results.”
Greene also expressed confidence the No. 1 pair of Hayes-Rangel would deliver.
“The girls play hard and get after it,” Howard praised. “What they don’t necessarily have in skill, they do it with heart and determination. They have the will to win. This meant a lot to them.”
Howard acknowledged the Lady Bruins are pointing for a unbeaten (12-0) season.
“It’s not over with,” he cautioned, “but the odds are in our favor right now.”
BEDDINGFIELD 5, NORTH JOHNSTON 4
Karissa Hayes (B) def. Maira Teruel 6-4, 6-3; Olivia Gachuz (NJ) def. Yaqueline Rangel 6-1, 6-0; Jaylah Moore (B) def. Samantha Davis 6-4, 6-3; Arial Pearce (NJ) def. Cathy Nicholson 7-5, 6-0; Alexis Dixon (NJ) def. Annie Greene 2-6, 6-4, (10-8); Vanessa Urieta (B) def. Bella Holland 6-1, 6-4.
Hayes-Rangel (B) def. Teruel-Gachuz 8-6; Davis-Pearce (NJ) def. Moore-Nicholson 8-3; Greene-Urieta (B) def. Dixon-Holland 8-1.