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For the 12th time in his 21-year career, Fike High girls tennis coach Lee Matthews has been proclaimed coach of the year in a North Carolina High School Athletic Association girls tennis conference.
Matthews shares the 2019 accolade in the 3-A Big East Conference with Rocky Mount’s Charlie Lawrence Jr. after their respective teams deadlocked for the conference championship with 9-1 records.
The Lady Golden Demons posted a 14-2 overall record and advanced into the dual-team playoffs along with Rocky Mount. Both teams lost in the opening round with Fike seeded No. 1 from the Big East and the Lady Gryphons No. 2.
“A lot of the times, it was because I was blessed with some really good talent,” Matthews said of his recognition. “This was a heck of a year. Look at our (personnel) losses from last year, a player deciding not to play and Chandler (Hill) being the only freshman added; I was tickled to death.
“If you had told me that we would go 9-1 and be conference co-champs, I would have said put it in the books and not even play the season.”
As co-champs, Fike and Rocky Mount each landed three players on the 12-player all-conference unit. Third-place Northern Nash and fourth-place Hunt placed two each.
The Lady Demons’ selections were senior Logan Adkins, who played No. 1 in the lineup; senior Avery Rose Brown at No. 2 and Hill at No. 4.
Rocky Mount’s selections were the senior trio of Caroline Broderick, Carson Browder and Caroline Land.
Sophomore Chloe Harrington, the player of the year; was joined by senior Nisaja Thomas from Northern Nash. Named from Hunt were Cara Moss, its only senior; and junior Ali Parbst.
Completing the all-conference lineup were senior Iris Radilla of Southern Nash and junior Emma Styers of Franklinton.
Adkins, the fourth winningest player in the history of the Fike girls tennis program, posted a 11-5 singles mark and teamed with Hill for a 17-3 doubles record. Adkins-Hill captured the Big East Conference tournament doubles championship, placed third in the 3-A East Regional and advanced into the state quarterfinals. Hill went undefeated in 16 singles matches.
Brown wound up with a 11-4 singles mark and teamed with junior Sophia Meszaros for a 12-2 doubles worksheet.
Harrington emerged player of the year after going undefeated in the conference in No. 1 singles. She captured the Big East tournament singles crown, took third in the regional and lost in the opening round of the state tourney.
Accorded honorable mention were junior Cappa Hill of Fike, sophomore Kaley Gesell of Hunt, senior Brisa Sevilla of Southern Nash, sophomore Lisa Dees of Northern Nash, senior Tatum Janke of Rocky Mount and senior Madison Long of Franklinton. Cappa Hill posted a 16-0 record at No. 5 singles.
Matthews’ teams excelled with Fike competing in three versions of the Big Eight Conference, the New Six Conference and, now, the Big East.
Of the 2019 team, Matthews noted: “We had the necessary pieces” and mentioned his time was divided among roles of team psychologist, athletic trainer, peacemaker and “whatever I had to be.” He also commended the development of sophomore at Mary Thomas Watkins at No. 6.
“This (co-championship) was the girls,” Matthews said. “They managed to find ways to win matches. Somebody always found a way to win a match we needed to win.”