By Jerry Holsworth - firstname.lastname@example.org
STEPHENS CITY -- On a sweltering day that was more like August than May, Sherando's experience was the deciding factor in its 5-0 victory over Freedom on Thursday in the Region II boys' tennis tournament semifinals.
The Eagles sent two freshmen, two sophomores and two juniors up against Sherando, and that proved to be too much of a youth movement for the savvy Warriors.
Despite that, both coaches were pleased with their team's performance.
"They have an awesome team," Sherando coach Steve Jennings said. "They all played great. They were consistent, played hard and made some really nice shots. They're exactly the kind of team that we need to schedule in the regular season. Competition like that can only make you better."
Even though his team lost about as quickly and decisively as a team could, Eagles coach John Bell was just as enthusiastic with the results.
"Sherando is one of the best teams in the state," Bell said. "They're what we're aspiring to be, and to get a chance to go up against them is going to pay off for us in the long run. We're a fifth-year school and we don't have a senior in our top six, and playing them lets us know how far we've come, and how far we need to go."
The biggest factor both teams had to deal with was the heat, and it affected every match.
Sherando seemed to handle the weather better than Freedom, and that helped the Warriors considerably throughout the afternoon.
"We came out yesterday and practiced in it for a while," Jennings said. "I really thought that doing that helped a lot. We didn't push it yesterday and we weren't out there long, just long of enough for our players to get a feel for what it was like."
Trey Scott, the Warriors' third seed, defeated Varum Kulkarni 6-2, 6-1, but heat affected his play.
"It was pretty hot out there, and that played a big part in the match," Trey Scott said. "I thought we both handled it pretty well, though."
The best match of the day was the No. 2 singles match between Trey's brother, Trevor Scott, and Eagle Alex Cragg. That surprised everyone, particularly Trevor Scott, since Scott is a senior and Cragg is a freshman.
"I was hoping for a good match, but I really didn't expect to get one like that from a freshman," Trevor Scott said. "He was really tough."
With the first set ending 7-5, Cragg and Scott battled longer than anyone else, leaving them alone on the court.
"I really didn't notice that and I didn't feel any pressure because of it," Trevor Scott said. "I was really zoned in to the match, and I honestly didn't notice that we were the only ones left out there."
Scott's experience was the difference. After a close first set, he was able to finish off Cragg 6-1 in the second set for the victory.
"He [Trevor Scott] had a really good first and second serve," Cragg said. "He's the best player I've ever played. I actually learned a lot from playing against him. He was using a lot of body language to let me know that the heat wasn't bothering him. That kind of took the wind out of my sails. I really didn't handle that well."
Cragg's comment surprised Trevor Scott.
"He said that?" Scott said. "It was really hot out there, and I can guarantee you that I was feeling it. I didn't think that I was handling it any better than he was. He really pushed me hard."
Kaleb Nguyen also had an advantage in his top-seeded match with the Eagles' Wesley Wong. Not only is Wong a freshman, but Nguyen had trained with him in the past and knew his game. That resulted in a lopsided 6-1, 6-0 victory for the Warriors' junior.
"Wesley is a great player," Nguyen said. "I used to train with him, so I knew how he played. I just tried to play my game and take it to him."
Sherando's Nick Lee took the No. 4 singles match, defeating Don Tran 6-4, 6-0, and the Warriors' Chris Mikus defeated Christian Lanzaro 6-1, 6-1 in the No. 6 singles match. Sherando's Daniel Sottosanti and Freedom's David Choi's No. 5 singles match was 6-2, 2-6 when it was suspended because the Warriors had clinched the victory.