By Tommy Keeler Jr.
FRONT ROYAL -- On a cold and windy day, Skyline girls tennis coach John Natalie knew his experienced team would handle the weather just fine.
The Hawks didn't let the windy conditions or the cold affect them as they rolled past Sherando, 9-0, in Northwestern District girls tennis action.
"My top seven are basically all fifth-year seniors. They've played in everything before, from the cold to the wind, rain and I know they've even played in snow flurries at some point," Natalie said. "That's just one area where I knew our experience would help us out."
The Hawks (3-1, 1-0 Northwestern) made quick work of the Warriors in singles. At No. 1 singles, Skyline's Presley Rutherford beat Sherando's Olivia Scott, 10-0, in 32 minutes to get the Hawks out to the early lead.
It is Rutherford's first year playing at No. 1 singles, and she said she's trying to treat it just like she would if she were playing at any other spot.
Rutherford kept Scott off balance with a variety of shots, hitting the ball flat while also mixing in slice shots.
"I like to mix things up," Rutherford said. "That's just what I like to do. I thought I played well today. I played hard."
Skyline's Julie Hoverter and Alex Zarzuela finished their 10-1 victories up simultaneously at No. 2 and 3 singles, respectively.
Zarzuela said she felt like it was the best she's played this season.
"I just tried to keep it steady," Zarzuela said. "Playing in the wind you have to have really good footwork, I think that's really important. I think I did a good job with that today."
At No. 4 singles, Skyline's Ashleigh Salyers defeated Maria Acosta, 10-2, to give the Hawks a 4-0 edge.
At No. 6 singles, Skyline's Haleigh Brady sealed the team win with a 10-2 victory over Haley Zeise, 10-2. Skyline's Alayna McEathron completed the sweep with a win at No. 5 singles.
"We've been off for a week-and-a-half, so I was really happy with how things turned out," Natalie said. "We played well in both singles and doubles."
The Hawks swept the Warriors (0-5, 0-1 Northwestern) in doubles as well with wins by the tandems of Hoverter and Salyers (No. 1), Rutherford and Zarzuela (No. 2) and Lindsey Morrison and Samantha Morrison (No. 3).
Sherando lost most of its top players to graduation last year, including No. 1 singles and doubles player Sarah Wolfe.
The Warriors have no seniors on this year's squad, and have three freshmen and five sophomores on the team.
"We have a very young team," Sherando coach Trevor Johnson said. "We're still learning strategies, and the rules of the game in some cases. Some of the kids have never played tennis before.
"It's a rebuilding year for us. We just want to have fun and keep getting better."
The Hawks came into the season with high goals. They advanced to regionals last year, and want to get back there this year. A win in the district opener is just the start the team was looking for.
"I think we're going to have a good season," Zarzuela said. "I have confidence in all of us."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org