By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
STEPHENS CITY -- In a sub-freezing 28 degrees, with cross-court wind gusts up to 25 miles per hour that produced a wind-chill of about 10 degrees, the homestanding Sherando Warrior boys tennis team topped Brentsville, 7-2 in a non-district tennis match Thursday afternoon.
The Warriors clinched the team win by dominating the singles match-ups, 5-1, then capped off the afternoon by prevailing in doubles, 2-1. The score was a repeat of Sherando's win over the Tigers on March 13.
Adjusting to the conditions, the teams started the match 30 minutes ahead of the 4:30 scheduled time, and played to eight games for set wins, instead of the usual 10.
In further accommodation to the conditions, all the players and coaches were in sweat suits, except Brentsville's No. 1 singles Connor Bergeron, who said he couldn't serve well in a long-sleeve sweatshirt. Half of the contestants played with hoods up.
At No. 1 singles, Sherando lefty senior Chris Mikus established an early 4-1 lead on Bergeron on the way to an 8-2 victory.
With Chris Mikus leading 7-2, the pair reached deuce, and Mikus hit a baseline winner, followed by a Bergeron lob winner to reach deuce number two.
Chris Mikus then hit an overhead smash winner, followed by a Bergeron stroke that went wide for an unforced error, giving Mikus the set victory.
"[In these conditions] if you hit the ball up, it'll just fly away," Chris Mikus said. "You gotta hit the ball lower, just be patient with it and pick an opportunity. My deep game was definitely working. My net game -- not so much in the beginning. I got to work on it and it was better towards the end. I had my game better together than my match [against Bergeron] last week.
"[Since last year] Net game is a big thing for me. Consistency as well, just keeping the ball in play and being patient -- not trying to hit balls that aren't necessarily there."
Other Sherando (2-2, 0-0 Northwestern) singles victories were earned by junior Matt Blaney at No. 2 (8-4 over James Broker), sophomore Nik Mikus at No. 3 (8-3 over Anthony Keaton), No. 5 Andrew Spieles, a senior, 8-2, versus Jack McGurk, and No. 6 junior Jared Linz-Van De Crommert, 8-1, against Clifford Broker.
Brentsville's lone singles win came at No. 4, where Christian Aldea topped freshman Grant Breen, 8-4.
The Sherando No. 3 doubles pair of Spieles and Linz-Van De Crommert were the first to finish, moving ahead quickly to a 6-1 lead before dispatching McGurk and Clifford Broker, 8-2.
"The conditions made it tough," Spieles said. "We tried to put a lot of top-spin on it, to keep it deep in the court, and coming to the net, take over the net, because we could get the ball up the court really fast. That's the easiest way to win."
Not much gets over or around 6-foot-5 juniior Van De Crommert.
"I like playing at the net because, basically, I can get everything that's hit at me," Van De Crommert said. "My backhand is actually better than my forehand because I'm left-handed. Most players are right-handed, so they hit a lot to my backhand, so I had to develop it. But my forehand's decent, too."
The Warriors also won at No. 1 doubles, where Chris Mikus and Blaney prevailed, 8-4, over Bergeron and James Broker.
At No. 2 doubles, the Tigers' duo of Keaton and Aldea topped Nik Mikus and Breen, 8-3.
Sherando has a deep roster with 15 players (up from 12 last year) dominated by underclassman, with six freshmen and four sophomores, while Brentsville has only nine players to draw on.
"I was real happy to that my [No. 3] doubles won and got off the court early," Sherando coach Steve Jennings said. "That was [a] surprise. Usually they're guys that are grinding and grinding. So that was good to see. It was good seeing the guys on both teams playing hard. Playing in this wind does not help.
"I have no idea how six freshmen came out for the team. They just showed up. We had 18 [total] and three of them decided they wanted to do other sports because they knew I couldn't get everyone on the bus. The bottom half is really young, with freshmen, and this is the first time some of them have ever played. Some of them didn't even know how to score. But they were curious, and I'm glad to help them."