DUBLIN — Midway through last season, Mireya Sandoval and Alyssa Smith came to a realization.
Their success, they decided, would improve if their communication on the court did as well. In an early-season showdown Tuesday of teams expected to battle for the Three Rivers Conference championship, their play at No. 3 doubles sent a message in West Bladen’s 5-4 win over visiting South Columbus.
Sandoval hit a winner down the alley to earn a service break, then served the duo ahead 5-2 as momentum shifted on the way to an 8-2 win over Savannah Williamson and Allison Butler.
“Halfway through the season, we agreed we needed to improve on that,” said Sandoval, a senior who plays the four spot in singles.
Leading 4-2 after singles, Sandoval-Smith were on the court about 10 minutes ahead of the other doubles action. Their clinching point for the Lady Knights came more than a half-hour ahead of teammates’ finishes in the closely battled duel of more than three hours.
“We have a lot of team spirit and good attitudes,” Smith, a junior, said of the team’s strength. Sandoval added, “We stay positive and motivate each other, no matter what.”
Head coach Billy Bryant lauded the tandem’s efforts, and said he tried mixing his other doubles pairings in an effort to find team chemistry. He was pleased with the effort, especially given the high stakes so early in the season.
“This was like Duke-Carolina playing the first game of the season,” Bryant said. “But now, we’re in the driver’s seat. Whiteville will be dangerous though.”
And he meant no disrespect to the rest of the Three Rivers foes, any of which might rise up with the trio of expected contenders.
The Lady Knights, 2-0 overall and in the Three Rivers, got singles wins from junior Autumn Brisson over Scarlette Cartrette 6-2, 6-2 at No. 2, junior Alyssa Bell over Ireland Lewis 6-2, 2-6 (10-4) at No. 3, Sandoval over Vanessa Faulk 6-2, 7-5 at No. 4 and Smith over Williamson 6-0, 6-4 at No. 5.
The Stallions (1-1 overall, 1-1 Three Rivers) earned singles wins at No. 1 by Elizabeth Koonce over Savannah Lee 6-3, 2-6 (10-5) and at No. 6 by Allison Butler over senior Haleigh Dunn 6-2, 6-2. In doubles, Cartrette-Lewis defeated Lee-Brisson 8-6 and Koonce-Faulk edged Bell-Dunn 8-6.
West Bladen is at Fairmont on Thursday at 4 p.m.
Senior Mireya Sandoval, paired with junior Alyssa Smith in No. 3 doubles for West Bladen, hits a winner during the Lady Knights’ 5-4 triumph over visiting South Columbus on Tuesday.
Alan Wooten can be reached at 910-247-9132 or email@example.com. Twitter: @alanwooten19.