By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- The Warren County Wildcats boys tennis team took the short ride to Skyline and swept their cross-county rival, the Skyline Hawks, 9-0, in a non-district match on Thursday afternoon.
It was the 13th loss of the season for the Hawks, who continue to seek their first victory of the campaign.
"This was the best day in three years for us," Warren County coach Robert Deavers said. "Last year we had no wins, and this year we have three 'W's' already, so we're looking good."
The weather was fine and both teams were without their No. 2's -- Warren County junior Jason Twele suffered a concussion in an accident at home, and Skyline senior Justin Anakalea was at an all-state choir performance.
That was the extent of the evenness, as the Hawks were left singing the blues.
The match began on a bright note for the Hawks in the No. 1 singles. Sophomore Geddy Zarzuela got in a high percentage of first serves and used frequent approaches to the net to gain an 8-6 advantage over Wildcats senior Daniel Freeman.
Freeman preferred to stay on the backline and rely on his ground strokes, but he figured out Zarzuela's strategy just in time to gain an 8-8 tie.
The level of play intensified in the next game, which included a 12-exchange volley that Freeman won on a lob that landed just inside the back line.
Zarzuela missed an increasing number of first serves, and Freeman employed a judicious lob and stroked some powerful passing shots to finally counteract Zarzuela's net game.
"My strategy was just to be more consistent than he was," Zarzuela said. "And then I started going for more of my shots and I started missing, so I tried to get back to that consistency. My net approach was working when he managed only a weak return that I could put away."
"The first time I faced Geddy, he won 8-6, so if this had been the short format he would have won again, 8-6, so I'm really happy we played to 10," Freeman said. "[Zarzuela] figured me out and when he came up to the net he usually won the point, and then I started to realize that I had to figure something out to defeat that. I tried about 50 [lobs] and finally got that one in [in taking a 9-8 lead]."
The second-best set for Skyline was the No. 3 singles face-off between sophomore Wayne Anakalea and Wildcats sophomore Shane Lemon, with Warren County picking up a 10-6 win.
In doubles play, with Twele unavailable, long-limbed sophomore Devaunte French joined Freeman to take on the Hawks' duo of freshman Kyler Racey and sophomore Anakalea.
French's build provides an extended playing radius, but he whiffed on several power shots until, leading 8-5, he found the range and hit key overheads and shots just inside the sidelines to join Freeman in prevailing, 10-5.
"This is the first time we've played in doubles," French said. "We should have done better, but we learned some things today."
"This is the first time we've swept [a match]," Deavers said. "We still have some weaknesses to work on. Players are still having some trouble with lobs and stuff at the net, but the baseline's getting better."
"They're hustling and giving everything they've got," Skyline coach Deborah Ramsey said. "I can't ask anything more, and this team has progressed so far from the beginning of the season to where we are now. This is not the same team it was two months ago. They've made tremendous progress and it's still a very young team."