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Entering the halls of Elm City Middle School for her sixth-grade year, Logan Adkins needed a diversion to pass the time.
The names rolled off the tongue. Hope Solo. Megan Rapinoe. Abby Wambach. Carli Lloyd. Alex Morgan. She knew them all. After a two-year stint playing for the Lady Vikings on the pitch, she would pay homage to her heroes the best way she knew how — by joining and playing for the tradition-rich Fike High varsity girls soccer program.
“I loved soccer,” Adkins said. “I was super into the (U.S.) Women’s National Team and all their players, and I remembered wanting to do something to stay active.”
Staying active was a necessity. At the time, the Wilson County Board of Education did not permit sixth graders to play middle school sports. That restriction, sans football, was lifted in time for the 2017-18 school year, but was far too tardy to serve Adkins’ needs.
However, she didn’t have to go far to find a solution. With the encouragement of Elm City athletic director Brent Pearson, Adkins decided to pick up tennis, if only for a year, and participate in cheerleading.
As the only public middle school in the county with an active tennis interest, Elm City was able to circumvent the sixth-grade ineligibility rule by operating as a club team out of Lake Wilson Tennis Club — a practice that still continues.
Therefore, Adkins had found her athletic home, at least for a year. She played No. 5 singles for Elm City’s club team as a sixth grader, picking up a racquet for the first time during the fall. Adkins proceeded to serve her spring in soccer exile.
Then, a funny thing happened. Finally eligible for soccer as a seventh grader, Adkins instead decided to pull double duty. She would return to Elm City’s club team in the fall, while living out her soccer dreams in the spring. That scenario played out again during her eighth-grade year.
By the time Adkins reached eighth grade, Fike girls tennis czar Lee Matthews knew he had significant reinforcements coming from the middle school level. Combined with returning sophomore Cameron Milne, the Lady Demons were poised to challenge Rocky Mount for the top spot in the 3-A Big East Conference.
“I knew the year before they got here,” Matthews said of his freshman infusion that included Adkins. “I knew (Adkins) was one of the three coming from Elm City that were going to make the team.”
But was Adkins, now the owner of 96 career victories at Fike, destined to be just a rank-and-file member of the Lady Demons? She was unsure until she met Milne.
THE CAMERON EFFECT
The dynamic of the 2016 Lady Demons could be summed up in one word: depth. While Milne took on what Matthews refers to as the “blocker” role at No. 1 singles, compiling a 14-7 record against the best opponents have to offer, that opened the door for Adkins and company further down the lineup. Fike, which shared the 2016 Big East title with Rocky Mount, went a combined 53-7 in the Nos. 2-4 spots — all staffed by freshmen. Adkins, playing No. 3, went 18-3 against her singles assignments.
On the individual side of the ledger, the presence of Hunt’s Taylor Love essentially dictated that any realistic chance at a Big East championship come in doubles.
As such, the preseason lay of the land in the Fike camp was clear. Milne needed a new doubles partner. And she would be the one to choose it.
Adkins and Milne hit some in practice. As Milne stayed in points from the baseline, Adkins was digging into a utility bag that she had acquired from the very first day she picked up a racquet. One aspect of her game wouldn’t overwhelm an opponent, but there was always an option B, C or D that kept her in points from the net or otherwise. That played well with the unflappable Milne at the baseline.
“We quickly figured out that she and Cam had some chemistry in doubles,” Matthews recalled. “It was quickly obvious that they played well together.”
Indeed, they did. They hit some more, and Milne decided she wanted Adkins to be her doubles partner. The duo went 22-4 and not only captured the Big East doubles championship, but the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A East Regional title.
As the No. 1 seed from the East in the state tournament, Milne-Adkins won a first-round match to reach the quarterfinals.
“I didn’t really realize that I could be competitive with some of the better players until I met Cameron,” Adkins said.
With an opportunity to attend the North Carolina School of Science and Math beginning with her junior year, Milne departed the Lady Demons, leaving a pool of candidates to take over the No. 1 mantle in the singles order. That individual would be tasked with being the new blocker for Fike, taking the occasional lopsided loss for the benefit of the roster in dual-team play.
Given the even-keel approach forged through playing with Milne, Adkins emerged as the logical choice to lead the lineup.
“It just made sense to put Logan up,” Matthews said. “She was more tempered. Cam knew she was the best player on the team, but knew she would take her fair share (of losses). Being the blocker, somebody’s got to be up there.”
Adkins’ jack-of-all-trades approach at the No. 1 spot has made her a challenging out even against more seasoned opponents. She was 16-3 as a sophomore in the so-called blocker role, leading Fike to the outright Big East dual team championship. The Lady Demons’ only loss in 19 matches was in the second round of the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs to Wilmington New Hanover in a chippy, hotly contested affair.
“I felt like she could stand being number 1,” Matthews said of Adkins. “Her temperament would allow her to handle to handle it just a little bit better.”
An undefeated season in Big East play garnered Adkins enough respect from coaches to emerge with the league’s player-of-the-year honor. Teaming with Anna Blair Thomas as a junior, the duo made the Big East championship match and qualified for the state tournament after reaching the state semifinals. Counting a 10-1 start to 2018, Adkins-Thomas enjoy a combined 30-5 record.
Adkins’ father, Greg, helped coach her during middle school. But as a 3.5-rated NTRP player, he’s finding himself on the business end of matches with his daughter.
“A lot of that comes from Kim Clark,” Greg Adkins said of the Wilson Country Club head tennis professional. “She’s been really instrumental in her development, as well as Sheila (Milne) and Susan (Myers). She’s gotten past the point of me being able to help her!”
Instead, the Adkins’ maintain their relationship with Cameron’s parents, Susan Myers and Sheila Milne, both of whom were standouts at Atlantic Christian (now Barton) College in the 1980s. The latter continue to be tough tennis players, while Clark has instilled an all-court game in the junior.
“Logan likes the pressure,” he said. “Some run from the pressure, but she likes to play people they say she can’t beat. She doesn’t take it for granted.”
Fike has had its share of quality players come through its girls tennis program in Matthews’ 20 years as head coach, with the pairing of Alli Benton and K.K. Walston producing back-to-back NCHSAA 3-A doubles championships in 2001 and 2002.
Adkins, with a 96-16 combined career record, would reach the 100-win plateau with two wins against Southern Nash on Thursday and two more when the Lady Demons host Hunt on Monday. With a senior season still to play, it’s possible for her to move into the top five all-time in victories at Fike by the time her career wraps up. Walston is the career leader in combined wins with 158, followed by Meredith Pruden (157), Mary-Katherine Prince (154), Mallory Short (150) and Benton (143).
Has Adkins been given her proper place in the pantheon of Lady Demons?
“Maybe not right yet, but it’s getting closer every day,” Matthews said. “Honestly, I can’t think of one that’s worked any harder at her game since she’s been at Fike High School. She has a tremendous work ethic. The only two I can put in there with the same caliber of work ethic, you’d have to go back to Alli and K.K. She’s that hard of a worker. They’ll (Benton and Walston) probably be in the (Fike High Athletic) Hall of Fame the next time we have a Hall of Fame class.”
Her individual path as a junior hasn’t been decided. There’s a chance Adkins, who considers herself more of a singles player now, could opt to go that route. Or, she’ll align with Thomas for another crack at the doubles draw. Either way, she’s bound and determined to not let one lost point add up to two or three careless losses in succession.
“I have a comeback mentality,” Adkins assured. “It’s never over until I’m on the bus coming home.”