By Tommy Keeler Jr.
STEPHENS CITY -- Parker Wilson has found his comfort zone.
The Handley boys tennis freshman has grown into the role of being the No. 1 singles player for the Judges, and on Tuesday it showed. Wilson avenged an early season loss to Sherando's Chris Mikus and helped the Judges to an 8-1 Northwestern District victory over the Warriors.
When the two teams played on April 4, Wilson suffered a 10-2 defeat to Mikus, but turned things around on Tuesday.
"I was definitely a little nervous last time," Wilson said. "To start at No. 1 as a freshman -- there was a lot of pressure. I got over that now. I just let it go. I was more aggressive and hit the ball.
"I definitely played smarter than I did the first time I played him. I was thinking a lot more about how to make him feel uncomfortable and how to be more aggressive."
Wilson used a solid forehand winner on break point to take a 4-2 lead in the match. Two games later Wilson broke again with a forehand down the line for a 6-2 lead.
"I felt like he did a really good job of attacking my second serves," Mikus said. "His forehand was really good today. He hit down the line really well. I felt like he really played a good match today."
Mikus was able to pull within 6-4, but Wilson responded by taking four of the last five games to win the match 10-5.
"[Wilson] just kind of laid back last time and today he really went after every shot," Handley coach Jimmy Robertson said. "Parker played a real aggressive match today and was able to prevail with that strategy."
The Judges (8-2, 5-0 Northwestern) were playing without three of their usual top six due to injuries and other school functions.
Handley's Taylor Watts (No. 2 singles), Carter Watts and Parker Dorsey (No. 4) helped the Judges grab a 4-0 lead.
At No. 5 singles, Handley freshman Tabor Thwing battled it out with Sherando's Andrew Spieles. The two went back and forth until Thwing broke Spieles' serve for a 10-8 win.
At No. 6 singles, Sherando's Jared Linz-van de Crommert saved four match points en route to an 11-10 (7) victory over Handley freshman Will Niessner.
Linz-van de Crommert trailed 6-3 in the tiebreaker, but saved the next three match points, including one with a lob winner, to even it at 6-6. Niessner took a 7-6 lead, but Linz-van de Crommert won the final three points to win the match.
Robertson said he was happy with the way senior Dorsey and the two freshman Thwing and Niessner played.
"It was a great experience," Robertson said. "You always want the younger kids to get experience to help build for the future years. [Thwing and Niessner] did a fantastic job toady. Both of them had close matches, very proud of both. Parker Dorsey filled in and did a fantastic job as well."
The Judges have seven seniors to go with six freshman, one junior and one sophomore on the team, which last year reached the Group AA state semifinals.
The win showed the depth the Judges have again this season.
"We're definitely a very strong team all around," Wilson said. "Even if we lose a few guys we're still strong."
The Warriors (6-6, 3-2) have a young squad with only two seniors in the top six, and despite the loss had plenty of reasons to feel good about the season.
"My boys played as well as they could," Sherando coach Steve Jennings said. "I'm very proud of how they played and how they responded to adversity.
"I think that the boys -- they all have a lot of heart. They're having fun. I think they're doing great."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org