By Jeff Nations
FRONT ROYAL -- The wind was whipping, as usual, but Skyline senior No. 1 singles player Kyler Racey played free and easy on Friday.
No wonder -- for once, the low 60s temperature made playing tennis an enjoyable experience after days upon days of bitterly cold practices and matches. A little wind wasn't about to bother anybody Friday at Skyline's tennis courts.
"Today was definitely the most pleasurable day we've had to play all season, pretty much," Racey said. "I think that helps everybody's play because you're not just freezing to death."
Racey won his singles match and teamed with Casey Stewart to win at No. 1 doubles as the Hawks picked up an 8-1 non-district win over Clarke County. Skyline beat the Eagles by that same score in their first matchup back on March 11, but both teams have made significant progress since then.
"The guys have definitely come along a bit," Clarke County coach Patrick Hausammann said. "All of our strokes, I think have improved and our serves are getting better. Just about everybody took more games this time."
Eagles freshman Eli McGraw had the best day, winning his No. 2 singles match by a 10-8 score over Skyline's Jacob McConahy.
"He was down in the beginning and came back," Hausammann said. "He kept the ball in play and kept going."
Racey had little trouble at No. 1, downing Jack McGraw 10-1 for the win.
"Kyler Racey is steady as always at No. 1," Skyline coach Debra Ramsey said. "He's been extremely steady for us all year. He's played very well, even in the matches he's lost. The matches that I absolutely expect him to win, he's taken care of business."
Travis Siever had a solid debut as Skyline's No. 4 singles player, just a day after beating teammate Rob Willard in a challenge match to move up from No. 6. Siever posted a 10-0 victory over Clarke's Joshua Vinson on Friday.
"He's now starting to understand the court and how to use the court -- angles," Ramsey said. "He's starting to understand, 'Don't hit the ball down the middle anymore. Get out to the sides with it.' He's starting to play very well."
Willard seemed to benefit from the move, as well. Coming in with four straight singles losses, Willard -- a senior who is planning to play golf at Virginia Wesleyan next year -- ended that drought with a 10-1 win over Clarke's Andrew Erickson.
"I came out here trying to be relaxed and just get back to the basics," Willard said. "I feel like I just need another win under my belt. We've got Millbrook on Monday so that'll be tough, but now I've got my confidence back and I'm hitting the ball better."
Joey Park (No. 3 singles) added a 10-5 win over the Eagles' Michael Dietz and Casey Stewart (No. 6) scored a 10-5 win over Richie Bonett.
In doubles, Racey and Stewart teamed for a 10-4 win at No. 1 over the Eagles' two McGraws. Skyline's Nick Lehew and Zach McFall beat Dietz and Vinson, 10-7, at No. 2 doubles. Kristian Andrews and Willard combined for a 10-3 win over Erickson and Bonett at No. 3 doubles.
"We're a lot better," Stewart said. "Every day we're practicing hard, getting after each other."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>