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Loss sends L-E netters to Lower State

Posted: April 28, 2016 9:54 a.m.
Updated: April 29, 2016 1:00 a.m.

Having a berth in the 4A state tennis tournament already in pocket, Lugoff-Elgin entered Tuesday’s home match with Region 4 rival Westwood playing for a better seed.

It was the Redhawks, however, which avenged an earlier loss to L-E and sent the Demons to a fourth seed with a 5-1 win.

L-E head coach Edward Rickwood said he was disappointed with the outcome of the contest.

“We beat them early in the season and except for this match, we are playing much better at the end of the season,” he said. “Thank goodness this loss did not knock us out of the playoffs. There were a few bright spots last night that we can carry into the playoffs.”

The one brightest spot for the Demons, again, was the play of Hunter Horton at first singles. The senior made quick work of Julian Narboni, winning 6-0, 6-0, before  “spending the rest of the match pacing up and down like the coaches trying to figure out what his teammates needed to hear to push them on to victory,” Rickwood said.

The guests won the next five matches.

In second singles, Kaleb Phelps outlasted L-E’s Spencer Hinton, winning 6-3, 7-5. Hinton started strong in taking a 5-2 lead in the second set only to see Phelps rally for the win. Matthew Mills played one of his best matches of the season in third singles only to come out on the short end of a 6-2, 6-4 loss to Steven Massey.

L-E senior Harrison Garcia got off to a slow start in his final home match against Ryan Hiller. Trailing early in the first set, Garcia rallied to even things at 5-5 only to fall in the first set, 7-5. Hiller took the second set, as well, 6-1. “Harrison was way down in the first set,” Rickwood said. “Suddenly, he must have realized that as a senior, this was his last home match. He rallied from behind to tie it up 5-5. A couple of missed opportunities at the net gave his opponent the opening he needed to take the set.”

In fifth singles, L-E’s Evan Freier was taken down in straight sets, 6-4, 7-5, by Terrell Foster. Rickwood said Freier hurt himself with errors which opened the door for Foster to take the match.

Trailing, 3-0, in the first set of their second doubles pairing, the Demon duo of Tyler Matthews and Ryan Hill fought back in a 7-5 loss to Oliver Ellis and Jalen Ryan. The WHS pairing roared back to win the second set, 6-0.

By finishing fourth in Region 4, the Demons will head to the 4A Lower State tournament and, according to Rickwood, may find themselves traveling to meet his alma mater, Socastee, in the first round of the playoffs.

Demons rebound against Falcons: A day after the loss to Westwood, the Demons bounced back to  defeat Darlington, 4-3.

The win capped a 6-12 regular season --- after an 0-5 start --- for L-E which opens 4A state tournament play on Tuesday, May. 3.

“After a disappointing showing in (Tuesday’s) region match against Westwood,” Rickwood said, “we were looking for some positive momentum in our last regular season match to take us into playoffs. We stepped up to the challenge and boy, did our players deliver.”

Horton closed his regular season with a 17-0 record as he easily dispatched of Avery Williamson with a pair of 6-0 wins.

Garcia was the next L-E player off the courts when he dropped his fifth singles pairing to the Falcons’ Max Ward, 6-1, 6-3.

With the match tied at 1-1, the DHS second doubles team of Ross Beasley and Jonathan Bryant put the hosts on top for the first time by scoring a hard-fought 6-2, 7-5 win over Ryan Hill and Evan Freier.

Matthew Mills evened things at 2-2 with an 8-6, 6-1 win over Darlington’s Jace Watford. “Matthew continued to hit better and better as they made their way through the second set,” Rickwood said. “Even though it took more work than the score would suggest, he took the second set.”

The hosts evened things when Kendal Howie outlasted Tyler Matthews, 3-6, 6-2,  12-10. 

“As always,” Rickwood said, “Matthew played a match with as many points as he could squeeze into three sets. Darlington got off to a very large lead in the third set tie break. Tyler fought back until they were tied again at 10-10. Normally, when Tyler gets this far into a match, he walks off with a win. Unfortunately, it did not happen for him this night.”

Needing a victory to send the match into a final first doubles showdown, seventh-grader Spencer Hinton broke quickly in his second singles match with Chris Moore.

Hinton went out to a quick 5-0 lead in the first set before Moore rallied, only for Hinton to get the 6-3 first set victory.  In a see-saw second set, Hinton half off the Falcon challnege for the 6-4 victory.

“Noticing that he was now the only one on the courts, I’m sure the thought hit him to ask if we needed his win. He never asked though, and got his job done,” Rickwood said.

Hunter and Hinton returned to the courts minutes following the completion of Hinton’s match to take on Williamson and Moore. The L-E tandem took control of things from the opening serve and came away with the 6-2, 6-2 win.

“Like most teams,” Rickwood said, “ a large part of their strategy was to hit to Spencer more than to Hunter; counting on mistakes from the less experienced player. Spencer once again stepped up to this challenge and put in a lot of winners. Darlington hit a lot more shots at Hunter than expected, and more of these shots went in our favor.”

Not only did the victory help erase the memories from Tuesday’s loss  but it also gave the Demons momentum heading into the state tournament.

“This was a great win to end the regular season with and to lead us into playoffs,” Rickwood said. “It is also nice to get a taste of what the leading team in our new region is like starting next year. 

“Even though all of our boys did not win tonight, they put up respectable scores and should be proud of the effort they put into their games. This is not the time in the season to wish you had done more.”



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