By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW MARKET -- Claire Barbour hadn't made much use of her net play this season. But with the match against Shenandoah District and county rival Stonewall Jackson on the line Friday afternoon, she decided it was time to try.
That extra bit of courage came just when the Falcons needed it most, as Barbour hit several volleys, including at match point in the 7-4 tie-breaker to take the No. 3 doubles match with partner Morgan Brill, 9-8, over the Generals duo, junior Carla Monroe and freshman Margaret Moomaw, and give Central a 5-4 victory.
"Normally, [coming to the net] is not the case [with me]," Barbour said. "I just sort of got this rush of confidence and knew I had to do it, so I went in and did it.
"This season hasn't really been going well for me personally. It's been a learning experience. But this game sort of surprised me. I played at lot better than I have the last couple of times. It's definitely a mental game and if you let your mind get hold of you then you're going to go exactly the way you think you're going."
The Generals No. 3 duo of Monroe and Moomaw are starting for the first time this year. Despite their relative inexperience, they went up 6-1 and looked to be poised for the win that would give Stonewall Jackson the match victory.
But the Falcons had other ideas, and took next four games to close within 6-5. That caused Generals coach Cindy Wilkins to have a chat with her pair.
"I was trying to tell them to relax, because we were up and the worse that could happen is that they would tie it up," Generals coach Wilkins said. "The bottom line is [they're] young and nerves. They got very nervous. Neither one had played last year. [Central] had some nice strokes at the end. The bottom line is that we fell apart in the end and they didn't. But we played a lot better against them than we did the first time."
Central senior Rachel Leeth won her No. 2 singles match against Emily Litten, 8-2, then joined sophomore Molly Barb in winning the No.1 doubles contest, also by 8-2, over Litten and Ashley Clar.
"I didn't play as strongly as I thought I would," Leeth said. "After the first couple of [games in singles] I started calming myself down and bringing it back. Then all I could think about was doubles, coming afterwards.
"We're doing a lot better than last year. My forehand's a lot better. I changed racquets and my serve's gotten a lot better. Emily and I played doubles last year and in the tournament over the summer. We never really get mad at each other. We just blow off [errors] and go back to work."
The Generals won their first match of the season, 8-1, over Buffalo Gap on Tuesday, but were without the services of No. 1 Whitney Wilkins, who sprained her right ankle in a roll-over on a stray ball during warmups against Riverheads last week. Wilkins said she should be ready to play in the regionals.
Central was without No. 3 Angela Pereira, who was away at a music concert.
Central won the first head-to-head match against the Generals, 6-3.
The Falcons (6-8, 3-1 Shenandoah) are in second place in the Shenandoah District under second-year coach Jordan Robinson.
"We're really making progress this year," Robinson said. "We only won two matches last year and we already have six wins this year. All the girls are working hard and can see the results. We'll close out the regular season with two home matches and we should be in good shape for the regionals."