By Brad Fauber
NEW MARKET -- Stonewall Jackson's girls tennis team has improved greatly since the start of the season, and it showed when the Generals took on Central on Wednesday night in New Market.
After falling to the Falcons in the first match of the season on March 11, Stonewall returned the favor on Wednesday by claiming a 7-2 win over its county rival. It was close throughout, with two matches requiring a tie-breaker round to decide the winner, but the Generals managed to remain on the winning side of every close match.
"It shows that we've improved," Generals coach Cindy Wilkins said. "But more than that, it shows that they have more confidence and more comfort out on the court. The first time we played them it was our first match of the season, and mentally they weren't as tough. I think they are stronger mentally now."
All but three of the combined singles and doubles matches between Central and Stonewall on Wednesday were decided by two games or less.
At No. 1 singles, Generals senior Margaret Moomaw and Falcons junior Katelyn Foltz found themselves locked in grueling match in which neither player could seem to gain control.
Moomaw worked her way to a 7-5 lead before Foltz broke serve to pull within a game, and then Foltz held serve in the next game to tie the set at 7-7. Moomaw then went up 8-7 on an ace before Foltz held serve again to tie the match at 8-8 and force a tie-breaker.
Foltz jumped out to a 4-3 lead in the overtime round, but Moomaw was able to rally for four straight points to win the round, 7-4, and take the set.
"I was really excited that I pulled out the win, but it was tough for me," Moomaw said. "Some of my shots weren't on today, and Katelyn was playing really good. I think we both did really well at the end, I just happened to win it."
The No. 5 singles match also turned into a thriller, as the duel between Stonewall's Amber Fisher and Central's Allison Bright required a tie-breaker round. Fisher and Bright -- both of whom are not typically in the starting six in singles -- traded games for the entire match, eventually working to an 8-8 tie. Fisher finally created some separation in the extra round, winning 7-4 to take the set.
Wednesday was frustrating for the Falcons, as they came up just short in several matches.
"We had two tie-breakers, one that easily could've went to a tie-breaker ... if one game goes one way, it's a completely different story," Falcons coach Mallory Skarupa said. "I'm a little disappointed. I think we need to leave it all on the court and make that our escape. Whatever else is going on, we need to forget about for those two or three hours."
In No. 4 singles, the Generals pulled out another close victory as senior Katelyn Hackenbracht rallied from a 7-6 deficit against Central junior Alissandra Rodriguez to win the set, 9-7.
Generals senior Erin Goodier cruised to an 8-2 win over Rebecca Truban, and Tracy Barb's 8-6 win over Central's Natalie Batlle in No. 6 singles sealed the match win for Stonewall.
Junior Jackie Walsh was directly involved in both of Central's wins on Wednesday, as she beat Megan Stalbird, 8-3, in No. 3 singles and then teamed up with Bright to beat Stalbird and Hackenbracht, 8-3, in No. 2 doubles.
"I think my day went pretty well. I just try to do my best and keep a positive attitude," Walsh said. "I just tried to play the wind to my advantage. My serves were pretty on point today."
In No. 1 doubles, Moomaw and Goodier lost a 5-2 lead as Foltz and Truban rallied to win four straight games to grab a 6-5 lead. But the Stonewall duo recovered to win the set 8-6.
In No. 3 doubles, the Stonewall combo of Valeria Shimanskaya and Colleen Shamburg beat Rodriguez and Batlle, 8-3.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org