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Steady Warriors take out Judges

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By Tommy Keeler Jr. - tkeeler@nvdaily.com

STEPHENS CITY -- Nick Lee needed a little help in his match with Kyle Stickley on Wednesday.

The Sherando junior trailed 8-3 in his match with Stickley at No. 3 singles, and then two things gave him a little momentum.

"I think the wind started to die down, and I also had to change my racket because I broke a string," Lee said. "I think I really took advantage of that."

Lee roared back to defeat Stickley and help give Sherando a 6-3 win over Handley in Northwestern District boys tennis action.

In the early part of the match, Stickley used the heavy wind to his advantage. Stickley did a good job of slicing the ball to throw Lee off his game.

"Kyle really knew how to play in the wind," Lee said. "He played really well today."

Trailing 8-3, Lee ran off six straight games to take a 9-8 lead and served for the match. Stickley fought back to even it at 9-9, but Lee broke his serve right back.

At 10-9, Lee used a couple of unreturnable serves to get to match point. Lee finished off the one-hour, 17-minute match with a drop-shot winner and gave Sherando a 4-2 lead entering doubles.

"I just don't give up," Lee said. "You always have to go out and give 100 percent effort, so even though I was down 8-3 I knew I had to play every point like it was the last one."

Lee and Trey Scott wasted little time clinching the victory for the Warriors at No. 2 doubles. The pair defeated Stickley and Taylor Watts, 10-1, in 38 minutes.

The win gives the Warriors (11-0, 5-0 Northwestern) a sweep of the Judges (9-3, 3-2) in the regular season and a two-game lead in the district.

Early on, it looked like Handley might have a shot at pulling off the upset.

Watts won at No. 5 singles to give the Judges the early lead. Scott evened things up at No. 2 singles, but Kaleb Nguyen had a fight on his hands at No. 1 singles for the Warriors.

Nguyen led 8-1, but lost four straight games to Handley's Daniel Park to make things interesting. Nguyen regrouped for a 10-5 victory in 48 minutes.

"My game is not suited well for the wind," Nguyen said. "I had to put more spin on the ball. You can't go for winners as much in the wind. You have to grind it out more and play high-percentage tennis."

With the match tied at 2-2, Sherando got a big win from Chris Mikus at No. 4 singles, 10-5 over Handley's Stephen Boppe.

At No. 1 doubles, Nguyen and Mikus pulled out a hard-fought 10-7 victory over Park and Mark Sfeir in 57 minutes.

"It was a well-played match," Handley coach Jim Robertson said. "I thought Sherando did a nice job of maintaining its composure, so hats off to them.

"We're trying to improve in every match. I thought we improved some today."

The Warriors are now on the verge of winning the Northwestern District for the third straight year. They have a two-game lead with only three district matches left.

The last two years, the Warriors have lost in the Region II final to Western Albemarle. Both matches were clinched in singles. Sherando lost a couple players from last year's team, and Lee said the expectations are a little different this season. However, he said they would love to have another shot to redeem themselves in regionals.

"We would love another crack at Western," Lee said. "We would love to play them just to see how we could do.

"We would love a shot at redemption, which wouldn't have to be beating them, it could just be not losing 5-0."

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