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After faltering late in doubles, the host Greenfield School girls tennis team reversed the tendency in singles and rallied to a 6-3 triumph against visiting Harrells Christian Academy in a North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A nonconference match on the Barton College courts in intense heat Thursday afternoon.
The score was closer than the final margin. Trailing 2-1 after doubles and 3-2 at the completion of the first two singles matches, the Lady Knights surged to a 4-3 lead and, within seconds of one another, sophomore Alex Garner, at No. 6, and senior Avery Vester, at No. 1, came off the courts with identical, hard-earned 7-5, 6-4 victories.
Greenfield upped its record to 3-2 with a pair of incomplete matches, while the Lady Crusaders exited 2-4. The Lady Knights next see action Tuesday at Chowan University in Murfreesboro against Ridgecroft School of Ahoskie.
“That was a tough one,” expressed second-year Greenfield coach Robin Morrison. “(Harrells) has definitely improved and it was a little harder than I thought it would be. I don’t know if the heat was our friend in the beginning.”
The Lady Knights drew even at 3-3 when sophomore Margaret Covington, at No. 5, emerged with a 6-1, 6-4 conquest despite problems with the drop shots of Harrells freshman ViviAnn Johnson. Greenfield seized its first lead at 4-3 when eighth-grader Luisa Lee delivered in a tiebreaker that constituted the third set.
Ever mindful of pace, Lee bounced Harrells eighth-grader Amber Jones 6-2, 2-6, (10-4).
“She likes to slap the snot out of it,” mused Greenfield junior Jade Pridgen of Lee.
Lee also played varsity tennis as a seventh grader, and Morrison noted: “The difference in her stroke production is huge.”
The turning point for Garner occurred in the seventh game of the second set. After rallying to knot the score at 3-3, Garner trailed 15-40 against Harrells eighth-grader Meredith Tatum. However, Garner battled back to claim the lengthy deuce game and fight past Tatum.
Because of the Lady Crusaders’ preference for pushing shots, Greenfield dealt with a drastic adjustment.
“Very well done,” declared Morrison. “It was a matter of regrouping and coming up with a new game plan. They absolutely showed a lot of grit — that’s what it came down to.”
Greenfield,victorious against Harrells last season, started out ahead in all three doubles matches, but only the No. 2 pair of Pridgen-Lee prevailed (8-2).
Vester-sophomore Ryan Jennings, at No. 1, constructed a 7-3 cushion at No. 1 — but lost the next six games. At No. 3, Harrells’ Jones-Tatum turned back Greenfield eighth-graders Mae Pridgen-Anna Grace Beddingfield 8-3.
Harrells senior Taylor Brinson, at No.2, remained undefeated in six matches , dominating 6-0, 6-0. Jade Pridgen, at No. 3, secured Greenfield’s first singles win by a 6-1, 6-0 margin.
“I thought I played pretty well considering we haven’t practiced in quite a while,” Jade Pridgen said. “I went into it as a new game. The heat was pretty rough, but I was used to it. I had to get out there, start moving my feet and be consistent. My serve was OK but could have been better. It did the job.”
Both teams did their job in the opinion of third-year Harrells coach Carol LuAnne Johnson.
“(The loss) was disappointing,” she said, “but they all played the best they could. They were very close games. Each of the girls did the best they could and it was a fun match to watch.”
As well as a long one to watch.
GREENFIELD 6, HARRELLS 3
Avery Vester (G) def. Cameron Blue 7-5, 6-4; Taylor Brinson (H) def. Ryann Jennings 6-0, 6-0; Jade Pridgen (G) def. Ellie Carone 6-1, 6-0; Luisa Lee (G) def. Amber Jones 6-2, 2-6, (10-4); Margaret Covington (G) def. ViviAnn Johnson 6-1, 6-4; Alex Garner (G) def. Meredith Tatum 7-5, 6-4.
Blue-Brinson (H) def. Vester-Jennings 9-7; J. Pridgen-Lee (G) def. Carone-Johnson 8-2; Jones-Tatum (H) def. Mae Pridgen-Anna Grace Beddingfield 8-3.