By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
STEPHENS CITY -- Headley Wilson has had to take on a coaching role this season at James Wood.
The Colonels had only three players come out for tryouts and when others finally joined the team a week into the season, many of them had never played before. Wilson, a junior, has played a key role in helping the younger players learn the game and improve.
"Headley's done a great job working with the younger girls," James Wood coach Rob Haskiell said. "The younger players have really responded well to her, and I think they've really learned a lot from her. She's helped them do what they need to do."
Wilson's talents playing and teaching were on display Wednesday. The Colonels fell to Sherando, 6-3, in Northwestern District girls tennis action, but James Wood showed vast improvement from an earlier meeting this season.
"I've just tried to get the younger players to play more competitively and to focus on getting better," Wilson said. "Many of them hadn't played tennis before. It's amazing how much they've improved."
Wilson won the last two Group AA individual doubles state titles while teaming with Kari Pope, who currently plays at Army. This year Wilson is playing with freshman Tarah Wampler and the two pulled out a big 10-7 win over Sherando's Sarah Wolfe and Emmy Bossung at No. 1 doubles on Wednesday.
Wilson and Wampler got off to a fast start and built a 3-0 lead. They were able to maintain the lead the rest of the way with good communication and solid play at the net.
Wilson was quick to give Wampler a lot of the credit.
"Tarah was hitting some crazy volleys today," Wilson said. "I was really impressed with how she played today."
"I think our doubles went really well," Wampler said. "It's a lot of fun playing with Headley. She's really good. She's helped me improve a lot. She's helped the whole team. She's like the head of our team. She's helped us all get better."
The two doubles teams could meet again in three weeks in the Northwestern District tournament as they are both tied for second in individual doubles.
Wilson also picked up a key win over Wolfe in singles. The match was very close throughout, but Wilson took control in the 10th game. Up a service break at 5-4, Wilson survived after falling behind 15-40, and held serve for a 6-4 lead.
Wilson was able to use her variety to her advantage. Wilson sliced the ball effectively and mixed up the pace to move Wolfe around.
"I was able to get a jump on her at 5-4, but it could've gone either way," Wilson said. "It was a really good match. The wind was definitely a factor. Sarah was really striking the ball well. She was striking through the wind."
Bossung picked up a big win for Sherando at No. 2 singles, beating Kristin Beckley, 10-4, to help give her team a 4-2 lead after doubles. Bossung trailed 3-2, but turned things around as the match went on.
"It took me a while to get used to the wind," Bossung said. "It just took me a while to wake up. Once I got the lead, I was feeling real good and I was able to keep it going."
The Warriors (4-9, 2-4 Northwestern) started off slowly in many of their matches, but were able to come back and pick up their fourth team win of the season. Like the Colonels, the Warriors are very young with no seniors.
"It's exciting to get a win," Wolfe said. "We're a young team and we just have to keep improving and working hard."
While the Colonels are still searching for their first win of the season, Wilson admitted she's also focused on individual play. Her win over Wolfe puts her in second place in singles with a showdown with Handley's Sarah Moomau next week.
"I'm really looking forward to playing her," Wilson said. "She's a good player. We really went at it the last time we played. And I think it will be another good match."