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Bulldog victory caps a perfect day for Smoak

Posted: April 29, 2014 2:29 p.m.
Updated: April 30, 2014 5:00 a.m.

If there was ever a match that the Camden High tennis team did not want to lose, this was it.
Shortly after Monday afternoon’s ceremony naming the school’s tennis courts after head coach Roger Smoak, the Bulldogs took to that same surface to meet Hartsville in a non-region pairing. The hosts made it a truly memorable day in handing the visiting Red Foxes a 5-1 defeat, giving Smoak his state-record 593rd victory as head coach of the Bulldogs.
Smoak, who was greeted at the pre-match ceremony by a player who was part of his first tennis team at Gaffney High School, along with his former Bulldog players, parents, friends, CHS and Kershaw County School District employees, said his biggest concern was making sure the delayed start of the match would allow it to be completed in the event of  threatening inclement weather.
“I really felt fortunate that we were able to get this match in,” Smoak said in reference to the foreboding skies on Monday. “We really wouldn’t have had any time to have made this match up. It’s going to be hard enough just to get these last two matches in, with the weather forecasts.”
The Dogs improved to 9-7 heading into their final two matches of the regular season. On this day, they scored four of their five victories in straight sets against a Hartsville squad which has already locked down the Region 6 championship and is headed for next week’s AAA state tournament which CHS, in all likelihood, will miss.
“Hartsville is not a really good team,” Smoak said. “But they are good enough to give you some competition.”
After having been extended to three sets by HHS first singles player Nelson Capobianco in their first meeting last month, Camden’s Nelson Semple rolled to a pair of 6-1 wins this time around. In second singles, Camden’s Ben Goodrich outlasted Weston Light, winning 6-5, 7-6 (7-5).
“Ben really did a good job of battling back in the second set,” Smoak said. “Even though he was losing, he did a good job of not giving up.”
Camden’s lone setback came in third singles as Hartsville’s Kameron Skinner came away with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Thomas deLoach.
The Bulldogs swept through the second portion of the rotation starting with Thomas Marshall breezing past Hunter Purvis, 6-0, 6-3, in fourth singles before Wilson Pope took down Donovan Sansbury, 6-3, 6-1, to close individual action.
In second doubles, the Bulldogs pairing of Robert Lackey and K.P. Cassidy had little trouble in downing James Teal and Mac Johnson, 6-1, 6-1.
“We had some fairly easy matches at the bottom of our lineup,” said Smoak. “We played good and steady tennis, something which I hope we can maintain the rest of the season.”
The win was the third straight for the Bulldogs who set closing the season with five consecutive victories as their goal upon returning from spring break. While the first three came rather easily, Smoak said things would get tougher with Chapin slated to come in on Tuesday before CHS heads to Lugoff-Elgin Thursday.
Smoak also credited his players for not being distracted by the pre-match ceremony and staying focused throughout the afternoon and early evening as they assured themselves of finishing the year with a .500 record or, better.
“It’s good to get over the hump,” he said of being two matches over .500. “At least we’ve gotten our record a little more respectable. I hope we can finish with a winning record, which is always one of our team goals.
“Our kids have really improved as we have gone along this season. And, if your team gets better each time out, you feel better about things.”

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