Pike teams with Hill for AAC doubles title

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   JOHNSON CITY -- Like a good savings account, Virginia Intermont's Brandon Pike and Tim Hill were money in the bank in the Appalachian Athletic Conference's flight three championship doubles match on Friday afternoon.
   Pike, a former Elizabethton High standout, teamed up with Hill for a 6-1, 6-3 win over King College's Chad Blowers and Kirk Weisz to win the title at the Liberty Bell Tennis Center.
   It was King that won the team title, as VI was forced to take second. Both teams will advance to regionals in two weeks.
   On the women's side, Virginia Intermont took the team championship, while King earned the second regional berth.
   Pike avenged an earlier loss in No. 2 singles to King's Arturo Aguirre. Aguirre won the match 6-3, 6-3.
   Pike was happy with the doubles victory, but he wasn't too thrilled with the day overall.
   "It feels pretty good," Pike said about the doubles win. "Overall, the performance today was a disappointment because as a team we did not win the conference. But we did win an invitation to regionals, so we move on."
   About the doubles victory, Pike did lavish praise for his partner.
   "We play really well together," Pike said.
   Hill also enjoys playing with Pike.
   "It's quite fun playing with the hometown hero," Hill said.
   Virginia Intermont men's tennis coach Ron Worrell thought it was good for Pike to get back out there after losing in singles.
   "That's what the game is all about," Worrell said. "You rebound, and Brandon had a good victory in doubles today. It's good to win the conference in singles or doubles. It's better to win it in both, but in two weeks we'll see what we can do in regionals.
   A possible Virginia Intermont-King match could happen in the regional finals, but this day belonged to King.
   In addition to Aguirre, Romain Vanirillas, Humberto Costa, Victor Motta and Blowers all won singles titles for King. Hill took the only singles title that King didn't win.
   King head coach Chris Toomey was happy to break Virginia Intermont's five-year run as AAC champions.
   "It has been many years I think since King has had a conference championship in tennis," Toomey said. "It's real exciting. These guys have really been looking forward to this all season long. They were runner-up last year to VI, so to win this year is a sweet victory."
   The Virginia Intermont women also had a nice tournament, as Kago Phatswhane, Marcelina Gogol, Vita Feldmane, Esther Mbugana and Felicia Ruiz all won singles championship.
   First-year head coach Mary Lou Smith thought she had some help in making this possible from Coach Worrell.
   "I can thank Coach Worrell for the recruiting he did," Smith said. "We got some good players in, and they're coming through."
   Smith says her team has played at high level all season long.
   "All of them except No. 6 went in 13-0," Smith said. "Everybody's out to get us."
   Milligan did have some solid performances on the women's side. Annie Echstrom and Jessica Conn made the finals in singles, while the teams of Echstrom and Renee Posey, and Conn and Sheri Lomison reached the finals in doubles before falling in all those matches.
   "I feel very good about the performance of our freshman players," Milligan women's tennis coach Marvin Glover said. "I thought Sheri Lomison had a good tournament in doubles. Jessica Conn had an outstanding tournament, and they showed a lot of promise. I'm looking very much forward to the future with them.
   Glover will have to say goodbye to Echstrom and Posey, but not before thanking his two seniors for excellent careers.
   "Annie Echstrom and Renee Posey wrapped up excellent careers," Glover said. "They played for championships in doubles today. They didn't win, but they did compete for a championship. And Annie lost a tough singles match in the No. 1 finals, and she's just had an outstanding career. She's one of the best players that I've ever coached, and had a pleasure to work with. So there are some very positive things that came out of this tournament."
   Another player that has impressed Glover this season is former Elizabethton High standout Sara Wallingford. And with two seniors leaving, she will become one of the main guns for the Lady Buffs in 2003.
   "She's a powerful player," Glover said. "When she harnesses her strength, and learns to mix up her spins and controls the depth on her shots she can be very dominating. As she learns to control her game better, she'll become an even more feared player."