By Tommy Keeler Jr.
FRONT ROYAL -- For the majority of Skyline's existence there has only been one last name holding down the top spot on Skyline's girls tennis team -- Hoverter.
Skyline's current No. 1 singles player, Julie Hoverter, followed her older sister, Shannon, at the top of the Hawks' squad.
Julie Hoverter, a senior, has been at the No. 1 spot for three years, and coach John Natalie is happy to have her there.
"A bunch of my girls have been with me since their eighth grade year and Julie was one of them. I sensed from the first practice that she was something special," Natalie said. "It's definitely a family position [No. 1]. They've had a stranglehold on the No. 1 position. There's been no other No. 1 except for a Hoverter for the entire time I've been coaching."
Julie Hoverter said that tennis was big in her family, as her mother and grandparents all played. Then she and her sister started playing, and she stuck with it.
As a freshman, Julie Hoverter played at No. 4 singles, and got to play alongside her sister in doubles.
The last two seasons, it was Julie Hoverter's turn to be in the spotlight of the top position, and she did very well.
Last year, she showed her mental toughness in a singles match against James Wood. Hoverter rallied from 7-0 down to win the singles match.
"I had taken a nap on the bus on the way there, so I was pretty tired," Hoverter said. "It just took me a long time to warm up. Plus, it was really hot that day. I didn't think I could [come back]. I kind of gave up, but then when I started winning a few I tried my hardest to beat her."
Natalie said that match really showed her fighting spirit.
"She doesn't give up," Natalie said. "She doesn't get rattled. She's got ice water in the veins. And [she] just goes about her business, and just methodically sets up her opponents, and then puts them away when it's time to put them away."
Hoverter also led the Hawks to the Region II tournament. The Hawks finished third in the Northwestern District, but knocked off Sherando in the tournament to advance to regionals.
One of Hoverter's strengths is her groundstrokes and her consistency. Natalie said she's consistent off both sides.
Hoverter said she prefers her forehand over her backhand.
"I can place the ball better with my forehand," Hoverter said.
She'll need the forehand to be solid his season not only against opponents, but maybe even against some of her teammates. Natalie said both Alex Zarzuela and Presley Rutherford will push Hoverter at the top, and he expects the trio to be very solid for the Hawks this season.
Hoverter said it's good to have teammates that can push her.
"It's kind of scary because they could challenge me at any practice and I could lose and give up my spot," Hoverter said. "It's good that we have a strong first three players."
The Hawks should also have depth at the bottom part of the lineup as well. The top seven players on the squad are all returning seniors, and all of them have been part of the team since eighth grade.
Hoverter said that all of the seniors are close. Hoverter also enjoys playing doubles, where she plays with her best friend, Ashleigh Salyers.
"We're mostly just having fun on the court and trying to win at the same time," Hoverter said. "We can't get mad at each other when we mess up, because we're just so close."
Natalie said Hoverter is also very valuable to him because she can help him with running drills during practice.
"As a junior she took a leadership role in running a lot of the activities and kind of being a second coach in practice," Natalie said.
The Hawks are in a tough district, with perennial power Handley still looking strong, but they still have high hopes of being able to advance to regionals again this season.
"It's not just a tough district, it's a tough region," Natalie said. "We hope to make it back to regionals. We hope to do more damage in regionals if we get there."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org