By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Katie Gordon and Taryn Burke were both a little under the weather on Tuesday. However, the Handley seniors didn't let that affect the outcome of their matches.
They each gutted out a win in singles to help lead the Judges to a 5-1 victory over Warren County in the Region II quarterfinals. Handley will play the winner of Tuesday's Monticello-Dominion match on Thursday.
Both Gordon and Burke tried to slow things down in their matches and take their time in between points. The Judges led 4-0 as Burke tried to close out her match at No. 4 singles against Warren County's Carol Ashley.
Burke won the first set, 6-2, but the second set was a little tighter early on. Burke held a slim 3-2 lead before winning the last three games of the 75-minute match.
"The match was pretty intense," Burke said. "She got a lot of stuff back. She was a fighter, you could tell."
Burke said she's been battling a cold and was really congested during the match, making it harder to breathe.
"I'd had to stop after every point and get a breath and relax," Burke said. "I was trying to tell myself to take every point as it comes and go slow and pace myself so I wouldn't get really heavy on the breathing. I didn't want to lose a point just because I was tired."
Gordon, who said she's been feeling really tired lately, tried to take her time as well. Gordon cruised through the first set, but struggled a little in the second set at No. 2 singles against Emily Sullivan.
"I'm normally not the type of person who likes to take her time and wait," Gordon said. "Towards the end of the first set I think I was tired, but I wasn't letting it get to me. Then in the second set, I was having a little trouble breathing and it was just a little different than what I'm used to."
Gordon was able to close out her match on an error from Sullivan for a 6-0, 6-3 win, which gave the Judges a 3-0 lead. Handley's Sarah Moomau (No. 1) and Jessie Nolan had posted wins earlier for the Judges.
At No. 6 singles, Handley senior Fiona Surette battled with Warren County's Brandee Kitzmiller. The first set went to a tiebreaker, which Surette dominated 7-2.
After winning the first set, Surette's game went up another level as she pulled out a 7-6 (2), 6-3 win in an hour and 11 minutes.
"She was probably the most evenly matched player I've played this season," Surette said. "[Winning the tiebreaker] definitely put my nerves at ease knowing that I had the first set. Once I won the tiebreaker, I knew I could win the second set."
Warren County's Sarah Kahler won 6-1, 6-3 over Handley's Hannah Skedsvold at No. 5 singles just minutes after Burke had clinched the team win.
The Wildcats (15-4) finished second in the Evergreen District, and advanced to regionals for only the second time in school history. The team has four seniors in the top six and Warren County coach Jeanie Tallent was very happy with everything her team achieved this season.
"Never in our wildest dreams would we have ever thought we'd be in regionals or have won as many as we did." Tallent said. "It was phenomenal for the seniors. They worked hard, they deserve it."
Handley, the three-time defending Group AA state champion, is in an unusual position this week. Handley (15-3) lost three matches this season, all to top Group AAA squads, which has left it as the third seed in the region. As the Judges go for their fifth consecutive Region II title, they may have to win as many as two matches on the road.
Playing on the road may give the Judges a little extra motivation.
"It definitely makes us fight harder, because we want to be the top team," Burke said. "Since we played all those triple-A teams people don't think we're the top seed, but I think we're pretty strong."