Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Demons, Rams already in midseason form

I haven't watered this blog in a week and I apologize to it and any loyal readers I might still have. A hectic schedule is no excuse for not spending a few minutes a day here.

I spent an hour or so at the Fike High School tennis courts Monday afternoon watching the season-opening match between a pair of teams that might be in Burlington by season's end. The Golden Demons, of course, made the trip last year as they reached the state 3-A dual-team final and Greene Central has won both its 2-A crowns in the past five years.

Fike won Monday's matchup 5-4 against a Rams squad that returns all six starters from last season. Making the Demons' win more impressive was that they did it without No. 1 singles player Mary-Katherine Prince, a three-time 3-A East Regional champion, and junior No. 4 Sarah Flinn.

I've seen Fike play so many tough matches the past two seasons but those usually come when the air is brisk, the leaves are falling and there are pumpkins on every porch. It was kind of strange seeing that intensity when everyone looked like they had either just come back from the beach or were getting ready to go. It was also spooky watching Fike play without Prince, who was out of town. She has been such a constant for the Demons since she arrived on the scene in the fall of 2006.

And Flinn, who was nursing a sore shoulder, has become a mainstay in the second half of the Fike lineup. Lee Matthews' lineup has been nearly written in stone for the past two seasons so it took a moment to adjust to the revamped order for Monday's match.

But one thing was familiar — the sight of senior Connor Allegood alone on the court as Fike's last singles player. I give Connor a hard time about making a habit of going to third-set tiebreakers whenever I cover a Fike match but she was in midseason form after taking the first set from Greene Central's Samantha Taylor, who has tennis in her blood, and then losing the second. But Connor determinedly won the tiebreaker, one of three on the day for Fike, and it proved to be a good omen.

Fike will have a likely tougher road in the 3-A East this year with traditional 2-A power Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons moving up a classification. But the Demons have experience in big matches and could well find themselves back in Burlington. Don't count out Donald Clark's Rams who certainly will benefit from Cardinal Gibbons' move as well.

Before you know it, October will be here and these teams will be playing some really exciting matches, if Monday was any indication.

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