LUMBERTON — A day after seeing his team fall to Lumberton at home, Purnell Swett tennis head coach Jeremy Sampson noticed improvements when the Pirates completed a season sweep of the Rams with a 6-3 win on Thursday.
“We had a lot better, more competitive matches. Guys weren’t quitting,” Sampson said.
Josh Britt, Cole Lewis, Quinton Frederick and Bill Davis each registered individual wins for Lumberton (10-5, 9-5 SAC). Davis won by default because the Rams only had enough players for five of the six singles matches.
Ben and Lacey Brooks earned solo victories for Purnell Swett. The Rams won two of the three doubles matches, but the Pirates came away with another automatic win due to a shortage of players on the visiting side.
Steady development has been a theme this season for the Rams, who hold an overall record of 3-11 and a 3-10 clip in the Sandhills Athletic Conference heading into the league’s tournament next week.
“Our effort’s been a lot better,” Sampson said. “We started the season with five players and we still have five players, so every match we are down. They haven’t quit.”
Sampson said the small roster size adds pressure for the Rams.
“It’s been tough because they know going into every match, we have to win three singles and two doubles. That’s tough, but they’ve responded well,” Sampson said.
Jydor Locklear is the team’s only senior. He will team up with junior Jaron Cummings in doubles action next week.
Locklear wants to make the most out of his last opportunities to compete in a Purnell Swett jersey.
“We want to take it a game at a time,” Locklear said. “We’re trying to win the first two matches and hopefully advance to regionals.”
His teammates will also take advantage of the time they have left to learn from his leadership, a trait Sampson said has improved throughout his high school career.
“His attitude has gotten a lot better from his sophomore season to his senior season,” Sampson said. “He doesn’t get mad if points don’t go his way. He puts it behind him. His serve has gotten much better.”
Purnell Swett’s opponents on Thursday night honored seven seniors who are graduating after being part of the Pirates’ 30-man roster this year.
One of those seniors, Lewis, advanced to regionals last year along with doubles partner Josh Britt after finishing second in the conference.
“I think we have a pretty good chance (in the conference tournament) given how well we’ve done this year,” Lewis said. “We were in a bit of a slump for a little, but once we got out here and started hitting well, it got better.”
Lewis said he wants to see as many Pirates as possible qualify for regionals this year.
Lumberton head coach Jeff Kinlaw, who took home Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year honors last year after the team finished second in the lead behind Pinecrest, said the team has plenty of work to do, but they have an opportunity to make noise next week.
“We’re trying to hopefully peak by Monday,” Kinlaw said. “We’ve had some good days and some bad days. We’re not doing everything we need to do all the time, which is important, especially when you’re going up against teams like Pinecrest.”
Pinecrest currently sits at the top of the eight-team league with an unblemished 14-0 record in conference play.
“If we can avoid Pinecrest next week, we’ll be alright,” Kinlaw said. “Those are the guys anyone will see in the finals or semifinals, so it’s important that we build on the first match and continue to roll and move forward from there.”
Sampson said the widespread talent in the conference means it is important to play well on each day of the tournament.
“You’ve got Pinecrest, Scotland, Lumberton and Jack Britt in the top four. It’s very competitive,” Sampson said. “We’ve got our hands full in regionals as well because we’re going to have to play Panther Creek, Cary, those Raleigh schools.”
The start of the tournament was moved from Tuesday to Monday at 11 a.m. due to the potential of bad weather later in the week. All matches will be held at Lumberton High School.
Rams split with Hoke courtesy of pitching gems
PEMBROKE — Eugene Wilkins threw a complete-game one-hitter for the Purnell Swett baseball team in a 4-0 Sandhills Athletic Conference win over Hoke.
Wilkins struck out eight batters in the win and allowed two walks. Brandon Brewer led the Purnell Swett bats with three hits and one RBI.
Noah Locklear, Micah Carter, Noah Evington and Chandler Brayboy each had a hit for the Rams, while Troy McGirt and Braydon Scott each had RBIs.
In softball, Hoke’s Kamryn Russell pitched a two-hit shutout victory against the Purnell Swett softball team on Thursday to avenge a loss earlier in the week with an 8-0 win on the road.
Russell struck out three for the Lady Bucks that won two of the three games in three nights it played this week. Purnell Swett and Lumberton would be in a tie for second place in the conference standings with a Lady Pirates’ win today at Scotland.
Jessyca Cardona had three RBIs for Hoke in the win.
Reach Brandon Tester at 910-816-1989 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @BrandonTester.