Dinwiddie, Prince George play lights-out tennis
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Mar 27, 2013, 19:38
Prince George High School senior Melissa Tomlin prepares to hit a forehand return during a Central District match against visiting Dinwiddie on Tuesday. Tomlin, a two-time district champion, overturned a three-game deficit to win her singles match, but play was suspended with the teams tied at 4-4 after the court lights malfunctioned (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
PRINCE GEORGE – The girls tennis match between Prince George and visiting Dinwiddie, a long-awaited clash of two teams unbeaten in Central District play, was supposed to shed light on the pecking order among the championship-chasing rivals.
Quite the opposite, actually.
The Royals and Generals fought to a 4-4 deadlock before play was suspended because of dwindling daylight on Tuesday.
The decisive ninth match – a drawn-out doubles pairing between Prince George’s Olivia Willougby and Jordan Thompson and Dinwiddie’s Sarah Hayes and Desire Lewis – was fittingly knotted at 7-7 at the time of the postponement.
That quartet will pick up where they left off and a winner will be crowned at a later date, according to Prince George coach Paul Cash. The Prince George High School tennis courts are surrounded by lights, but when they malfunctioned the shootout yielded to a blackout.
“We always have really tough matches against Dinwiddie,” Cash said. “I figured it would be very tight again. Traditionally, it always has been. They’re an excellent team, so I thought it would go right down the wire.
Dinwiddie High School freshman Jamiah Lewis returns a serve during a Central District match against Prince George on Tuesday (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
“Unfortunately, the wire burnt out.”
Or perhaps Prince George senior Melissa Tomlin and Dinwiddie freshman Jamiah Lewis simply generated too much electricity for the decades-old fixtures to withstand.
Meeting for the first time, the No. 1 players treated dozens of onlookers to a back-and-forth nail-biter that saw Tomlin erase a 5-2 deficit to force a tiebreak.
The two-time reigning district champion claimed a 9-8 (9-7) victory when Lewis double faulted, but that ending was not befitting of the topsy-turvy match. Tomlin rallied back from two match points, narrowly avoiding her first district loss since 2011.
Despite the slow start, Cash said his confidence in Tomlin never wavered.
“Somebody said, ‘It looks like she’s met her match,’” Cash said. “And my comment was, ‘No, it’s not over.’ It’s never over with Melissa. She listens really well, and she made most of the adjustments that we talked about. That was a gutsy match.”
Tomlin’s triumph was one of attrition.
She forced her rookie counterpart to earn every point. While Lewis specialized in emphatic winners and well-struck forehands, Tomlin countered with unflinching consistency.
“I just kept adjusting my strategy like my coach told me to do,” Tomlin said. “I just focused on getting every ball in.”
Cash called Lewis the best ball striker in the district, and first-year Dinwiddie coach Jessica Lilley said the right-hander’s mindset is just as sound as her technique.
“She has a very good mental approach in addition to her actual skills,” Lilley said. “She knows what shots to make and when to make them, and she can change her game to suit who she’s playing.”
If not for Tomlin’s comeback, the Generals would have swept the top three singles pairings and taken a 4-2 lead into doubles play. Dinwiddie No. 2 Lauren Tucker defeated Willougby 8-2 and third-seeded Hayes topped Thompson by the same margin.
“They’re much more well-rounded as a team,” Lilley said of Prince George. “But we have a really good top three. That’s not to say we have bad fourth, fifth and sixth players, but they level out while we’re very top heavy.”
The Royals, winners of 21 of the last 22 district titles, have not lost a league match since 2011. Despite her district supremacy, Tomlin has never advanced beyond the first round of the Central Region tournament. Reversing that trend, she said, is high on her list of priorities.
“I’m hoping to make it to the second round this year,” Tomlin said.
DINWIDDIE 4, PRINCE GEORGE 4 (play suspended)
Singles: Tomlin (PG) d. J. Lewis 9-8 (9-7), Tucker (D) d. Willougby 8-2, Hayes (D) d. Thompson 8-2, Lackey (PG) d. Brayton 8-0, D. Lewis (D) d. Johnson 8-6, Honaker (PG) d. Jones 8-3.
Doubles: J. Lewis-Tucker (D) d. Tomlin-Lackey 8-0, Johnson-Honaker (PG) d. Brayton-Jones 8-1, Play between Willougby-Thompson (PG) and Hayes-Lewis suspended at 7-7.