By Tommy Keeler Jr.
FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County senior Carol Ashley is the only four-year starter on the girls tennis team, and one of only two starters back from last year. Ashley knows she has to be a leader for a very young Warren County squad, and so far things are working out really well for the Wildcats.
Ashley helped lead the Wildcats to a 9-0 win over Skyline on Thursday, keeping Warren County undefeated on the season.
The younger players on the Wildcats squad look up to Ashley so much they even gave her a nickname.
"The team has nicknamed me 'momma Carol', so I definitely feel a leadership role," Ashley said. "I do like [being a leader], because I feel like they can come to me and ask questions.
"They've done really well. They've exceeded my expectations for this year. We've done so well. I'm really proud of them."
Carol used her powerful serve and consistent groundstrokes to defeat Skyline's Kristen Fristoe, 10-1, at No. 1 singles.
Warren County coach Jeannie Tallent said she's very happy to have 'momma Carol' for one more season.
"I'm going to cry my eyes out when I lose her this year," Tallent said. "She's definitely out there cheering [the younger players] on, helping them out. I think they've really looked up to her. She's had a great start as well. She's playing well, moving great."
The Hawks (6-3, 3-0 Northwestern) were without their top seven players, all seniors who were on a senior trip. The Wildcats didn't have much trouble taking control of the match early, against their inexperienced opponents. It was the first varsity singles matches for all of Skyline's lineup.
Skyline did put up a fight in a couple singles matches. Skyline's Heather Raymond lost a competitive 10-5 match to Warren County's Lauren Woodrell at No. 3 singles. Raymond won two consecutive games to pull within 8-5, before Woodrell finished the match off.
At No. 6 singles, Warren County's Jayme Goode held off Skyline's Rachel Wines, 10-5.
Warren County's Jade Rowe won nine of the last 10 games to beat Skyline's Alicia Zarzuela, 10-2, at No. 2 singles.
Rowe played tennis as a freshman and as a sophomore, but did not play last year. She decided to come back out for tennis this season, and is playing in the top six in singles for the first time.
"I was really nervous my first match, because I had took a year off. I think I'm getting the hang of it again," Rowe said. "For all the time I took off and then coming back and being No. 2 it's just -- wow. It's actually pretty amazing.
"Doing it again was definitely a good choice for me."
Rowe is also Ashley's doubles partner, and another strong leader for the team.
"I knew as soon as we started playing this season that I wanted her to be my doubles partner," Ashley said. "We have a lot of fun. She is a beast at the net. She is awesome at the net."
The pair easily won their No. 1 doubles match against Fristoe and Zarzuela, 10-0.
The Hawks have several tough matches next week, including a district showdown with Handley. Skyline coach John Natalie said he was happy with how his players performed against Warren County.
"Obviously, I knew I was in a little bit of trouble without having my top seven players here, but I was very impressed with my players," Natalie said. "There were a lot of good positive signs from players that were playing in their first competitive singles match."
Tallent said her young squad is still a work in progress, despite the record of the team.
The Wildcats (6-0) start Evergreen District play next week, and the district is always tough.
"We have a long way to go," Tallent said. "We're definitely in a rebuilding mode. We're still very young. We still have a lot to learn."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org