Pike has banner day as VI tops Milligan netters

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   It was another day at the office in what has been a special tennis season for Virginia Intermont senior Brandon Pike.
   The former Elizabethton High standout first teamed up with Vinny Bitencourt for an easy doubles win, then defeated Joe Westerman 6-0, 6-1 in the Cobras' 9-0 victory at Milligan College.
   "We've been playing hard," Pike said. "The whole team is playing good right now. We've got to take it one day at a time."
   A lot of those days have been good for Pike and the Cobras.
   The Cobras are 7-0 in Appalachian Athletic Conference play and 12-6 overall. Those losses for the 15th ranked team in NAIA have come against either NAIA opponents ranked ahead of them, or against Division I opponents.
   The Cobras also own a win over Division I program James Madison.
   In conference play, Pike and the rest of the Cobra players have yet to lose an individual match.
   "I think this is the best team ever at VI," Pike said. "It's good to be captain of that team. It makes you feel good."
   Pike is definitely making the most of his last hurrah in Bristol, and knows he has to make the most of this season.
   "I'm very thankful to be able to play collegiately," Pike said. "It's kind of happened all pretty fast."
   The Cobras are coming off a disappointing 2002 campaign, at least for their standards. VI failed to win the AAC for the first time in several years, and Pike lost in the finals of his singles flight in the tournament.
   Pike and his teammates are determined not to let that happen again.
   "That's our main thing," Pike said about the upcoming AAC Tournament. "We all want to advance far in the nationals, and I think we can. We've got to get there first. But yeah, that's definitely our main objective."
   One of the highlights of Pike's career came in March when the Cobras played Southern Conference power East Tennessee State.
   Pike's father, Billy Pike, played collegiately there. Pike was also recruited by current interim athletic director Dave Mullins when he was in high school.
   The Cobras lost several close matches in a 7-0 defeat, but Pike relished the experience.
   "It was definitely fun," Pike said. "I wish Coach Mullins would have still been coaching, because I've always been around ETSU tennis. Coach Mullins recruited me, so yeah it was a great opportunity. I lost in three sets."
   Pike's stellar career is drawing to a close, but it's one he will never forget.
   "I have no regrets, and I played my best," he said. "I've had some bad losses, but I've had some good wins. Overall, I've had a successful journey."