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Going the Distance

Hornthal, Twiford advance to NCC girls tennis doubles final

NHS duo lost in the final in three sets

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Northeastern's Ellie Hornthal during a Northeastern Coastal Conference individual girls tennis doubles semifinal match against Bertie, Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at Northeastern High School.

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By Malcolm Shields
Sports Editor

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Northeastern doubles team of Madeline Twiford and Ellie Hornthal advanced to the Northeastern Coastal Conference girls tennis individual tournament championship match Tuesday evening at Northeastern High School.

Twiford and Hornthal, the No. 3 seed in the doubles tournament, faced No. 4 seed from First Flight in Courtney Tillett and Allison Hudson.

First Flight won the doubles crown with a 7-6(7-4), 4-6, 6-4 win in the final. 

The NHS pair led 6-5 in the first set, but Tillett and Hudson rallied to force a tiebreak.

With the tiebreaker tied at 3-3, Tillett made key plays at the net for points.

An error by NHS on set point gave the Nighthawks the first set with a 7-4 result in the tiebreaker.

Northeastern battled back in the second set.

After falling behind 2-0 to First Flight, NHS won six of the next eight games to take the set 6-4.

In the third set, Tillett and Hudson led by as much as 5-1, but NHS battled off multiple match points to win three consecutive games to trim the deficit to 5-4.

The Lady Nighthawks duo clinched the league doubles title on a point by Hudson.

Northeastern coach April Turner noted that not only did her athletes want to win league championships Tuesday, but the entire field as well.

“You could definitely feel the tension out here,” she said. “They all wanted it. Not just my girls. They all played great.”

For Twiford, a junior, and Hornthal, a sophomore, it was a tense day of tennis at the Northeastern High School tennis courts.

The duo began the afternoon in a semifinal against the No. 1 seed in the tournament in Bertie’s Alyssa Byrum and Lindsey Dickens.

Hornthal and Twiford defeated the Bertie duo 7-6(7-5), 6-3 to advance to the doubles final.

The NHS duo trailed 5-1 in the first set and rallied to win the set in a tiebreaker.

After securing the final point of the match, Hornthal and Twiford hugged each other in celebration.

“We hadn’t beaten them in the regular season all year,” Turner said about the doubles team from Bertie. 

Turner noted that the emotions of beating Bertie in the semifinal carried over to the final, as the NHS pair might have ran out of gas against First Flight.

“They didn’t get out-played. They just didn’t have anything left,” Turner said.

Northeastern’s No. 2 seed doubles of Olivia Sanders and Brooke Overman fell to Tillett and Hudson in the other semifinal 3-6, 7-6(7-5), 7-5. 

“Sometimes you need to take that loss to get you motivated for the next step,” Tuner said. “They played well [Tuesday]. They just didn’t close it out.”

Turner acknowledged that she felt that facing the top-end talent in the league tournament was great for her team, because it prepares them for the NCHSAA Individual 2A East Regional on Oct. 19 at Greene Central.

Northeastern’s two doubles teams along with First Flight’s Tillet and Hudson and Bertie’s Byrum and Dickens will advanced to the regional.

Northeastern and Currituck had players play in semifinal matches in singles.

Currituck’s Elizabeth Hewitt fell to No. 3 seed Gray Tillett 6-2, 6-3 in a semifinal match.

“I thought that she played really well,” Currituck coach Vic Ramsey said of Hewitt. “Gray is an excellent player, been to the state tournament a couple of times. No shame in losing to a good player. Elizabeth is a very promising player with a lot of dangerous ground strokes. She made some of those shots [Tuesday]. She’s just a sophomore. We’re looking forward to two more years working with her.”

Northeastern’s Emma Teachy fell in her semifinal singles match to Sammie Lilliston 6-0, 6-0.

“I’m proud of her. She played a good match,” Turner said of Teachy. “We knew that it would be a tough match.We played Sammie twice during the regular season.” 

Lilliston faced her teammate Gray Tillett in the singles final and the Lilliston, a senior, won the title with a 6-2, 6-1 result.

Lilliston, Gray Tillett, Teachy and Hewitt all advanced to the 2A East Regional singles tournament at Greene Central.

It is the first time in recent years that Northeastern had five athletes qualify to the regional.

The conference tournament capped a strong season for First Flight (11-0, 8-0 NCC) which posted an undefeated record in league play en route to the conference championship.

The Lady Nighthawks will play in the first round of the NCHSAA 2A dual team playoff on Wednesday.

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