Pike leads Cobra netters

By Matt Hill

   Virginia Intermont tennis player Brandon Pike was like an icy road on Tuesday. It was as tricky to play him as it is to drive in such treacherous conditions.
   The former Elizabethton High standout easily won his singles and doubles matches en route to leading the Cobras to a 9-0 victory over the Milligan College Buffaloes at the Milligan College tennis complex.
   Pike defeated Adam Deiwert in singles 6-0, 6-0, and teamed up with Tim Hill to knock off Deiwert and Matt Emmert in doubles by a score of 8-1.
   "I thought I played alright," Pike said. Pike played No. 6 singles Tuesday on a team that is ranked in the top 25 nationally among NAIA schools.
   Pike says his number fluctuates because everybody is so even on this squad.
   "It's a fluctuating thing," Pike said. "All of our players one through six are basically the same. Anyone of us can play one and anyone of us can play six any given day. He just changes it up and to see what works best."
   Pike, a TSSAA state finalist in 1999, suffered an injury around
   Christmas while working at a local barbecue place. Pike suffered
   third-degree burns on his left leg, and things looked bleak for the former Cyclone.
   But Pike was determined to get back into action, and he hasn't missed any of the season.
   "I got third-degree burns on my left leg, and I didn't play tennis for about a month," Pike said. "I came back and practiced maybe two days, and the first team we played was the No. 2 team in the nation. I was struggling at the beginning just getting back in shape. But I'm fine now."
   Virginia Intermont head coach Ron Worrell is glad that things are just fine with his valuable squad member.
   "We're just glad to have him back in the lineup after this serious accident that he had over Christmas," Worrell said. "He's made a miraculous recovery. He's doing very well, but he's not 100 percent. Hopefully he'll continue with his therapy, and if he has no problems he'll be back to full speed before the end of the season."
   Pike wasn't the only former area prep star playing in Tuesday's match.
   Former Science Hill star Jon Michael Lukianoff, as well as former Unicoi County standout Adam Campbell are playing for Milligan.
   Lukianoff played well in a 6-1, 6-4 loss to Virginia Intermont's
   Sebastian Donso.
   "I feel really good about that knowing he's a great player," Lukianoff said. "I like playing against him."
   Milligan head coach Rich Aubrey expects big things out of Lukianoff in the years to come.
   "He's got a bright tennis future, no doubt about that," Aubrey said about his No. 2 singles player. "Playing against good people is only going to make him better. I'm pleased when he gets to play matches like the one he played today."
   Campbell fell a little bit short on Tuesday in a 6-2, 6-2 loss to Luis lazo De La Vega in No. 1 singles action, but Aubrey is pleased with his progress.
   "Adam's just a very solid player," Aubrey said. "He didn't hit the ball as well today as he normally does, but of course Luis had something to do with that. Adam strikes the ball real well, and works really hard at his game. With Adam and Jon Michael we have two local players who I think are going to have a good season for us."
   Milligan's Patrick Mitchell also played very well for the 'Buffs in a 6-3 6-1 loss to Vinny Bitencourt.
   Mitchell and Bitencourt had some long rallies in this one, and
   Mitchell was very happy with his performance.
   "He had some good strokes," Mitchell said. "I felt like I hit alright with him. Just some points he overpowered me, and out-finessed me."
   While Milligan is building a program, Virginia Intermont is looking to get back to the national tournament.
   It's a goal that Pike is thinking a lot about.
   "We have a good team," Pike said. "We hope to return to the nationals. We should be better than we were last year."