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Sullivan highlights Wildcats' comeback victory


By Tommy Keeler Jr. - tkeeler@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Emily Sullivan flashed a smile at Warren County coach Jeanie Tallent and pumped her fist.

Sullivan was still down in her match at No. 2 singles with Brentsville's Jill Marianos, but after winning two straight games she knew things were going her way.

"At that point I knew I could actually win it," Sullivan said. "It was the biggest comeback I've had in ... forever."

Sullivan won the final seven games of her match and helped lead Warren County to a convincing 6-3 Evergreen District victory over Brentsville on Wednesday.

Marianos won the first five games of the match and Sullivan said the heat and the wind were bothering her. After a talk with Tallent, Sullivan said she began to turn things around.

Tallent said, "I just told her to play her game and to quit over-thinking."

Marianos was able to build the lead to 8-3 before Sullivan took control. Sullivan evened the match at 8-8, and Marianos began to fall apart. Marianos slammed her racquet against her foot several times in frustration.

A backhand volley winner gave Sullivan a 9-8 lead and she sealed the match in the next game on an error from Marianos.

"It was an amazing match," Sullivan said. "It's a really nice feeling to know that I can be that far down and still come back and win. It's just amazing."

"That made me cry," Tallent said of Sullivan's win. "I was so proud of her and happy for her. When Em's on, Em's on. I call her my little assassin. She's the best one at being able to dig down deep and pull it out. She's always focused on the next point, no matter what the score is. She always stays positive."

Sullivan's win was one of several comebacks for the Wildcats.

At No. 5 singles, Sarah Kahler fell behind 3-0 to Brentsville's Jennifer Castellon. Kahler's racquet had recently been re-strung and she said it was making a noise.

Luckily for Kahler, she had an older, backup racquet. Kahler won six consecutive games on her way to a 10-6 victory.

"It made a world of difference," Kahler said of her back-up racquet. "It's my new best friend. It pulled me through."

At No. 3 singles, Katherine Young and Catherine Kilday were in a tight battle early on. However, Young won eight of the last nine games for a 10-3 win.

"I've been a little sick the past few weeks, and I knew I just had to pull it together for the team," Young said. "I just kept pushing myself. It felt good to get the win."

At No. 1 singles, Caroline Oxley was down 7-4 to Brentsville's Anna Bonning. Oxley battled back and pulled to within 9-8. The pair battled through seven deuces before Bonning finally won on a forehand return winner.

With the Wildcats (12-1, 4-1 Evergreen) leading 4-1, all the players turned their attention to the match at No. 4 singles. Warren County freshman Carol Ashley held an early lead on Tasha Bull, but things got tighter as the match progressed.

Bull cut the lead to 8-7 and after a pair of service breaks, Ashley was four points from clinching the win for her team. The game went to deuce before Ashley wrapped up the match on a couple of errors from Bull.

"She was really consistent and she hit good angles," Ashley said. "I really wanted to win it because I knew that it would clinch it for the team. When I won it I was really excited."

The win gives the Wildcats a firm grip on second place in the Evergreen District and a sweep of the Tigers, who were a Region II quarterfinalist last year. If Warren County wins one of its last three matches, the Wildcats would clinch at least the second seed in the district tournament and a home match for the tournament semifinals.

Warren County still has shot a winning the district regular-season title. The Wildcats trail first-place Fauquier by a game and play the Falcons -- whom they lost to 6-3 earlier this season -- on May 13.

"We've never even been in the district tournament," Sullivan said. "Just knowing that we could go in as a 1 or a 2, and not just as a No. 4, is a good feeling."

"To have a home [district tournament] match would be a huge honor," Young said. "I think it just shows that all of our hard work these last few years has really paid off."



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