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Lady Bruins push Croatan to the brink, but fall 5-4 in opening round

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The first North Carolina High School Athletic Association girls tennis playoff match to be held on the Beddingfield High campus did not conclude on its grounds.

But between the start of Tuesday’s 2-A postseason clash with Croatan and the end 3 1/2 hours later on a pair of lighted courts at Fike, Beddingfield flashed the brand of dual-team tennis that carried it to an undefeated regular season and the third conference championship in school history — scrap out a pair of wins in singles, and move the proceedings to doubles.

Playing with a chip on their shoulder, the Lady Bruins eked out the necessary victories at No. 4 and No. 6 singles to extend the match. Once in doubles, Beddingfield dragged the Lady Cougars into their element, winning No. 2 doubles and burning the availability of their own courts as the sun set on Old Stantonsburg Road.

With No. 1 doubles tied at 7 and No. 3 having the Lady Bruins trailing 8-7, the match shifted to Fike. Once there, the senior tandem of Karissa Hayes-Yacqueline Rangel fell down 9-7. Hayes-Rangel staved off three match points, but the fourth went the way of Croatan’s Abigail Agra-Grace Burrows, clinching the decisive fifth point and ending the Lady Bruins’ dual-team season with a 5-4 loss.

Beddingfield, which loses five seniors in its starting lineup, fell for the first time in 13 matches. Croatan, the champion of the split 1-A/2-A Carolina Conference, improved to 9-2 and awaits the Goldsboro-South Columbus winner in the second round.

“Early on, trailing 4-2 heading into doubles, I’m looking at three courts and seeing girls get scrapes and bruises flying all over the place,” Beddingfield head coach Jeremy Howard marveled. “They did what I asked them to as far as being competitive. I know there were maybe some rumblings of us not deserving a 12-0 record. This was the calling card to see if we could compete with a better team, and the girls were flying all over the place. They gave it everything they had.”

Among its starting combinations, Beddingfield’s loss at No. 1 doubles was just the second in 25 dual-team matches. Hayes-Rangel were defeated for the first time in 12 matches against dual-team opposition.

“We were very, very fortunate to win,” Croatan coach Jim Sheehan said. “I knew that Coach Howard would have them ready. That’s not a surprise; they’re undefeated. So they’ve beaten some people. We can’t afford to take anybody lightly.”

The frantic doubles session was set up by senior Cathy Nicholson’s 6-4, 6-4 win at No. 4 singles and a 6-1, 6-3 victory from Rangel at No. 6. Urieta and sophomore Annie Greene transitioned to Fike down 8-7 and pulled out an 11-10 win after the outcome was decided. Ten-game pro sets are required in the dual-team postseason.

Dual-team careers concluded for Hayes, Rangel, Nicholson, Jaylah Moore and Urieta.

“It didn’t end the way we wanted it to end,” Nicholson said. “But I think we brought our best game, and that’s all we can ask for as a team. That shows we are worthy of our conference championship, and we are worthy of our record.”

CROATAN 5, BEDDINGFIELD 4

Abigail Agra (C) def. Karissa Hayes 6-2, 6-0; Grace Burrows (C) def. Yacqueline Rangel 6-1, 6-1; Kaitlyn Sink (C) def. Jaylah Moore 6-1, 6-2; Cathy Nicholson (B) def. Madison Maxwell 6-4, 6-4; Laura Hartman (C) def. Annie Greene 6-1, 6-2; Vanessa Urieta (B) def. Aiden Cobb 6-1, 6-3.

Agra-Burrows (C) def. Hayes-Rangel 10-7; Nicholson-Moore (B) def. Sink-Maxwell 10-4; Greene-Urieta (B) def. Hartman-Cobb 11-10(2).

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