CORRECTION: In a story published on Wednesday, George Mason boys tennis player Jay Rodock's name was misspelled.
By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
FALLS CHURCH -- Good fortune shone on the George Mason High School campus, with clear weather prevailing in the midst of storms and heavy rain nearby, as the host venue for the Region B girls and boys tennis individual doubles tournament semifinals and finals on Tuesday.
The Central Falcons represented the Shenandoah District, joining George Mason (Bull Run), Altavista and Appomattox of the Dogwood District, and Randolph-Henry of the James River District in the event.
The Falcons' girls duo of sophomore Molly Barb and junior Rachel Leeth fell in their semifinal match to Altavista's Andra Brumfield and Lauren Magner, 6-2, 6-3.
The Falcons' boys tandem of senior Ethan Wilson and junior David Hoye swept their Appomattox semifinal opponents, Jason Gilliam and Vann Slayton, 6-0, 6-0.
In the final against the George Mason's Kan Tagami and Jay Roderick, the Falcons lost the first set 6-3, then battled to the last possible stroke, losing the 6-6 tiebreaker (7-5).
The Central girls took on an Altavista pair that had some significant down time this season.
Magner missed most of the first half of the season with torn ligaments in her left ankle. She played wearing an ankle brace. Brumfield was hospitalized for three weeks and returned for the Dogwood District tournament.
The Falcons took the first game in the first set of the girls' semifinal, then saw the score mount to 5-3 against them. The decisive game went to deuce before Altavista scored the set winner on an exchange of lobs.
In the second set, Barb and Leeth were both able to hit forehand winners and overhead slams to go up 2-1.
Then Brumfield and Magner gained the advantage in first-serve accuracy and the Falcons starting making more unforced errors. When they were down 3-2, the Falcons broke out on top 40-0, then held on at deuce to gain a 3-3 tie.
Down 4-3, Central took a 40-15 lead and then let Altavista off the hook, losing the deuce points.
Central tied matters at 30-all, then Altavista scored the final two points, with match point coming on a Falcons' backhand error, as Brumfield and Magner won the second set 6-3 for the semifinal victory.
"We just got down the first [set], and after that we just completely lost all confidence," Leeth said. "We just kept putting everything out, and instead of regrouping, we just went off that last shot. We definitely didn't pay to our full capability."
"We were excited about it, especially for Rachel as her last one," Barb said. "Obviously, it wasn't our day a lot. We can't do much about it now. We beat ourselves."
The Falcons doubles team finished the season 12-5.
"When they got down early, that was the key for Altavista," Central girls coach Jordan Robinson said. "[Barb and Leeth] got themselves down when they lost some early games. They've had an obviously successful year in the district.
"They've had a few close matches, but they've been on top quite a bit this year, so being in that position, being down, is a little new to them, and, obviously some nerves were there, being in the regionals, and they started thinking about the outcome instead of focusing on the next shot."
George Mason's girls tandem of Kelsey Kane and Claire Sednak won the girls final, 6-2, 6-1, over Randolph-Henry's duo of Shannon Tharpe and Ashley Elder.
Central's Wilson and Hoye swept Gilliam and Slayton of Appomattox to advance to a final matchup with George Mason's Tagami and Roderick, who beat Daytos Dunnavant and Nick Baker of Randolph-Henry, 6-2, 6-1.
In the first set, the Falcons played the Mustangs to within one at 4-3, then George Mason won the last two games to win the set, 6-3.
The second set featured the kind of tennis that thrills players and fans alike.
There were five deuce games, with Central winning three of them.
There were numerous lob shots and many run-downs past the back line of long shots.
"Going to the net's a big part of our game," Wilson said. "For them, it's really just a strategy thing to throw them off because not a lot of people lob it and we practice it a lot and it throws them off."
Each duo held serve until the Falcons broke the Mustangs on a deuce win by Hoye off a backhand winner after a long volley with several deep saves on both sides, for a 4-3 advantage. Then each side held serve until Central led 6-5 on a Hoye overhead smash at the net.
The next game was the fifth deuce situation and the Mustangs took that critical one on a deep forehand winner by Tagami.
Leading 5-4, Roderick double faulted on his serve to create a 5-5 situation before hitting a service winner and a forehand winner to take the tie-break 7-5 for the match win.
"In the first set we definitely were a little bit slow," Wilson said. "We definitely were playing our game a little more in the second set, but we just couldn't finish the points off."
"We started to get it back in the second set," Hoye said. "They hit some good shots and some shots we weren't able to convert."
The Central boys finished the year at 10-4.
"As long as [Wilson and Hoye] left it out on the court, you can be proud of them, and they did," Falcons boys coach Jeff Walters said. "They got off to a little slow start, then they came back. In the second set, when we had them 6-5, I really thought it was going to us.
"I know they did not want to go to a third set [in the final]."
Walters said he is hanging it up as a coach after 10 years. He will be assistant athletic director at Central in the fall.
"These guys were on my last team as a coach, and really, I couldn't be prouder of them representing themselves and me and the school, and I'm glad to be associated with them," Walters said.