Batchelor tabbed WDN Tennis Singles Player of the Year|Tigers’ Matthews-Chesson voted WDN Tennis Doubles Team of the Year

Published 8:01 am Friday, December 4, 2009

Sports Editor

Beth Batchelor was simply dominant on the tennis courts this season.
The Washington Pam Pack junior cruised through the regular season undefeated, helping her team win the Coastal Conference championship with a perfect 18-0 overall mark. Batchelor also helped her team qualify for the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A Dual Team Tournament.
The athletic Batchelor, who is also a standout soccer and basketball player, made it all the way to the state tournament in singles play.
Because of her success, Batchelor was voted the WDN Singles Tennis Player of the Year.
“It’s definitely an honor,” Batchelor said. “It was a fun season. We just all had fun together and worked hard.”
Batchelor, tabbed the Pack’s MVP, was also selected as the Coastal Conference Player of the Year.
“That felt good,” Batchelor said. “I was very surprised to get that. I didn’t know that was coming at all.”
Pam Pack co-coach Michele Elks said Batchelor was a good choice for the award.
“I am so proud of Beth,” Elks said. “These accolades are well earned for her. She has played in our top spot for two years now and has done so with confidence and has been a good leader.
“To be able to go undefeated in conference play as a junior is a huge accomplishment. Beth is a special athlete because she wins and loses with grace. She is not even aware of her own potential in tennis.”
Beth Pippin, co-coach for Washington, was happy for Batchelor.
“I am thrilled for her,” Pippin said. “She's a great player who does not even realize how good she is. She is very humble and a great athlete.”
Batchelor had some high expectations when the season started, and she achieved her most important goal.
“At the beginning of the season, my main goal was to get to state,” Batchelor said. “The competition was definitely a lot better. I just went out there relaxed and tried to have fun.
“I didn’t win, but I think (the experience) will help me a lot (next year). I now know what I have to do to make it farther.”
Batchelor, who finished third in the NCHSAA Class 3-A Eastern Regional, faced Weddington’s Meredith Branham in the opening round of the state tournament. Branham was able to capture a hard-fought 7-5, 6-4 win.
“At the state tournament, (Batchelor) was there with the elite players from North Carolina, but she was just herself,” Elks said. “She had a real chance to win that match, leading most of the way.”
Batchelor praised her coaches for helping her reach the state tournament.
“My coaches definitely motivated me,” Batchelor said. “They were great all year.”
Batchelor’s calm, cool demeanor helped her achieve success all season.
“I just kept my head in every match,” Batchelor said. “If I got behind, I would just try to motivate myself to try and come back.”
Ever the team player, Batchelor said her fondest memory was of playing doubles with senior Hayley Stowe.
“The highlight of the season was definitely playing doubles with Hayley,” Batchelor said. “We just had so much fun together. I don’t think it will ever be the same.”
Elks believes Batchelor has a bright future ahead of her.
“Next year, I believe she will dominate again in the number one spot,” Elks said. “She played her best tennis ever in the state tournament, and I hope she will work on her second serve and confidence at net in the offseason. If she does that, I think she may surprise us all with how far she can go.
“She could play at the college level if she wanted to, but that will have to be her choice. Aside from all of her athletic abilities, she is a great girl who is a good example for her teammates and an excellent sport. I could not be prouder of her.”
Tigers’ Matthews-Chesson voted WDN Tennis Doubles Team of the Year
Williamston duo led team to new territory
Sports Editor
Kate Matthews and Sara Chesson are close friends. The bond certainly helped when they joined forces as Williamston’s top doubles team this season.
The Tigers’ duo enjoyed personal and team success throughout the season. Matthews and Chesson qualified to the state tournament, led the Tigers to a Four Rivers Conference championship and into the semifinals of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A Dual Team Tournament.
Because of that success, Matthews and Chesson were voted as the WDN Tennis Doubles Team of the Year.
“It’s really an honor to have been chosen for this,” Matthews said. “I definitely don’t think either one of us expected it, but we are so thrilled about it.”
Chesson added, “Kate and I are honored to be chosen for this award. It’s a great end to a great tennis season.”
The duo finished second in the NCHSAA 1-A Eastern Regional tournament to qualify for the state tournament. At state, Matthews and Chesson squared off against East Montgomery’s Myranda Blake and Delana Hinson. The Williamston pair won the first set, but Blake and Hinson rallied for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory.
Matt Matthews, the coach for the Tigers and the father of Kate, said the girls worked extra hard to achieve their success.
“They put in extra work,” coach Matthews said. “Outside of our practices, they play on the weekends and play during the summer. They put in a lot of time and effort.”
Communication, according to Kate Matthews, was vital to the team’s success.
“Sara and I have always communicated very well,” Matthews said. “We talk a lot between points about strategy. We’re friends both on and off the court so that makes for a lot of fun and success when we play together.”
Chesson agreed with her doubles partner.
“Not only had Kate and I been playing together for four years, we’re dedicated players and loved the game of tennis,” Chesson said. “We are also good friends. Being friends allowed us to call each other out on our mistakes when necessary and to constantly talk to each other and strategize during points.”
Their strong play and leadership helped the Tigers reach the semifinals of the Dual Team Tournament, a first for the girls team in school history.
Chesson said the pivotal point of the season came during a match against Bear Grass.
“There were many highlights this season, but I really think Kate and I grew into a cohesive team more than ever when we were losing a match to Bear Grass, 9-2, and came back to beat them seven games and win with a tie breaker. That really gave us the confidence and tenacity to pull through and win whenever we were in tough matches the rest of the season.”
The Tigers (15-6) knocked off Lejeune (6-0), Gates County (8-1) and Dixon (5-1) in the first three rounds to reach the semifinals, before falling to the N.C. School of Science and Math in the semifinals.
Matt Matthews and Tom Ward, who coached the Tigers, were praised by the players.
“They really have taught us everything we needed to be successful,” Kate Matthews said. “I'd like to mention how incredibly thankful I am to have had Tom Ward and my dad as coaches. Both of those guys know more about tennis than I could ever dream of knowing and, when it comes down to it, their dedication and coaching is what really made us a successful team.”
Getting to play for her father the last four years made it extra special for Kate Matthews.
“My dad and I both love tennis,” she said. “We play in mixed doubles tournaments together and we just go out and play for fun a lot.
“It has been really special for me to be able to have him as both a coach and parent at all my games. He gives really good advice and knows a lot about tennis. We are both really sad for this to have been my last high school season.”
Chesson, who hopes to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said that while her high school tennis career may be over, her days of playing tennis are not.
“As farfetched as it may seem, I plan to play for the rest of my life,” Chesson said. “I plan to not only play on an intramural team in college, I hope to be playing with my children one day.”
Matthews, who has sent college applications to UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina State, the University of Maryland and Vanderbilt University, also plans to continue playing.
“Our coaches have always told us that tennis is a life-long sport, and that’s definitely true,” Matthews said. “I’ve been playing at least a couple times a week even though I don’t have a season to get ready for.
“I just love the sport and the competition. I foresee myself playing recreationally for the rest of my life and also in intramurals at college.”