By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
Central's Molly Barb and Sherando's Chris Mikus and Trey Scott all have a lot in common this week. The trio are all trying to win a state title. They are all making their first appearance and states. All three of them are a little surprised how far they've gone this year, and they are all playing some of their best tennis at the right time.
Barb will play today in the Group A Individual Singles state tournament at Radford University. Mikus and Scott will play Friday in the Group AA Individual Doubles state tournament at Virginia Tech.
"I've been trying to get ready as much as I can," Barb said. "Getting ready for any styles of plays that I might see down there. Just going to try my best to play my best down there. I'm so excited."
Barb, a senior, will play Gate City's Rosa Smith in the semifinals at 9 a.m. The winner of the two semifinals meet in the final at noon. Bland County senior Grace Sarver is playing in the other semifinal against Appomattox Regional's Aly Metz. Sarver has won four individual titles, two in singles and two in doubles.
Mikus, a junior, and Scott, a senior, will play Jamestown's J.J. Wilroy and Sam Ross in the state semifinals at 9:30 a.m. on Friday. The Sherando pair requested the match be moved up, from the original 3 p.m. start time, due to Scott's graduation at Sherando on Friday evening.
The pair said they're excited for their first trip to states, which is also the first in school history.
"As long as there is good sportsmanship and good play, I'll be happy no matter what the outcome is," Mikus said.
The Sherando pair said they played some of their best tennis in winning the Region II title last week. They defeated a very tough pair of players from Western Albemarle to take the title.
"I definitely feel like we reached the height of our game against Western Albemarle,"
Mikus said. "As long as we can play tennis like that this week, we'll have a good chance."
"I think the biggest thing [at regionals] was we didn't let anything get to us," Scott said. "I think that was really big for us. We played well. It was a great feeling to win it."
Barb also had a tough opponent in the Region B final two weeks ago, as she played East Rockingham's Stacie Bailey. Barb said she knew she was a consistent player.
"I knew I had to play really well," Barb said. "After I won match point -- oh my gosh -- I was so happy. I can't really describe it."
It's been a journey for Barb the last three years. She lost in the district final the last two years, and said that only motivated her more to finish her career at Central on a strong note.
"After a lot of working hard, I've finally gotten to states," Barb said. "It's a really good feeling."
Barb has been hitting with Central boys coach Andrew Whetzel to help get her ready for today's match. She knows she's facing stiff competition, including Sarver. Central girls tennis coach Mallory Skarupa said she told Barb to just swing freely.
"I told her that she's in a good position as an underdog," Skarupa said. "There's nothing to lose. So, she can go all out and be aggressive and just go for it."
Scott hopes to have a very busy weekend with a lot of traveling. He will head back to Stephens City on Friday after his doubles match, and hopes to go back to Blacksburg on Saturday in quest of a state title.
Scott said he is definitely more nervous for the tennis than the graduation.
"Graduation is easy," Scott said. "Playing a match is a lot more difficult. I will definitely be nervous about the match."
The pair is also very proud to be the first Sherando tennis players to qualify for the state tournament.
"Obviously, being the first from Sherando is a great honor," Mikus said. "We're going to do our best."
"And hopefully we'll come back with a state title," Scott said.