Last updated: April 22. 2014 5:26PM - 981 Views
By - jlinville@civitasmedia.com

North Surry's Corbin Willard goes low to return a ground stroke in the semifinals of the Western Piedmont Conference Tournament at West Stokes. Willard plays for the singles title today.
North Surry's Corbin Willard goes low to return a ground stroke in the semifinals of the Western Piedmont Conference Tournament at West Stokes. Willard plays for the singles title today.
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KING — North Surry’s Corbin Willard pulled away in the second set to advance to the tennis final of the Western Piedmont Conference Tournament.

Teammate Samuel Holder came up short in the semifinal and will play for third place while Willard takes on West Stokes’ Jacob Covington at 9 a.m.

After some cool weather last week, the temperature reached the upper 70s at West Stokes, and it was even hotter where the sun shown on the hardcourt.

Holder, Covington and Willard’s opponent, George Blankenship, all suffered from muscle cramps at times during the match.

After his win, Willard said he hadn’t sweat that much all season and his legs felt dead.

All season long, Corbin has competed as hard as anybody in the conference, said North coach Drew Belton. He will always try his hardest, just like Austin Barker did for the team last year.

At the second seed, Corbin won most of his matches this season, including a stellar 7-1 mark in the eight conference matches.

Corbin had some cramping issues last week and cramped up a bit on the ride back to North Surry Monday night, said Belton. He kept pushing fluids on the young man to make sure he can be rehydrated for this morning’s match — which at least will be during a cooler time of day.

Willard opened his play in the quarterfinal, beating South Stokes’ Thomas Carroll in straight sets, 6-0, 6-2.

Blankenship, meanwhile, beat Surry Central sophomore Zach Cochran 6-1, 6-2.

In the semifinal, Blankenship was up early, but Willard battled back to tie the match at 5-all, then won 7-5. He kept the momentum going to win the first three games of the second set and closed out 6-1.

On the other side of the bracket, Holder beat Tyler Upchurch, Forbush, 6-0, 6-0. Covington beat Central’s Tanner Mears 6-3, 6-3.

The semifinal turned into an epic battle for two sets.

Covington won a close first set 6-4. Then Holder went up 2-1 and had about a half-dozen break points on Covington, but couldn’t get the win. The Wildcat won that game, then broke Holder for a 3-2 lead.

Holder trailed 5-4, but was keeping the pressure on Covington, who came down gingerly on a fault serve with his right calf tightening up. Covington would have two double faults to give away a game for a 5-5 tie.

Holder went up 6-5 and had three set points before Covington won to make it 6-6.

In the tiebreaker, Holder jumped out to a 6-2 lead and won 7-4.

The Greyhound seemed to have momentum on his side, but between sets he did some stretching of his own to get the tightness out of his legs.

Covington came back out a little fresher and jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Holder couldn’t muster a rally and lost 6-0.

Samuel has been the Hounds’ top seed for two years and always gets the other team’s best shot, said Belton. He didn’t play some of his best tennis, and Covington played very well.

Still, by reaching the top four, both Holder and Willard have qualified for the regional tournament a week from Friday in Lexington.

Today’s matches are still important because they affect seeding for that regional, noted assistant coach Eric Belton, who like his brother played in regional tournaments for Mount Airy High.

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