By Tommy Keeler Jr.
FRONT ROYAL -- Presley Rutherford wasn't sure what to expect for her senior season. The Skyline girls tennis player had never played at No. 1 singles before this season, but this year moved to the top spot and now has even advanced to regionals.
Rutherford came up short of winning the Northwestern District title, falling to Handley's Jessie Nolan, 6-0, 6-0 at Skyline on Friday, but Rutherford is still very proud of what she's accomplished so far this season.
"I've been working hard, but I wasn't expecting to have a record like this and do as well as I have," Rutherford said.
Rutherford and Nolan will both advance to the Region II individual singles tournament on May 28 and 29 at Fauquier.
Nolan used her powerful serve and groundstrokes to overpower Rutherford in the final, but Rutherford said she was happy with how she played.
"She's really good," Rutherford said of Nolan. "I felt like I played hard. That's all you can do. You just give it all you have. You know that she's good, but you're playing the ball."
It was the second consecutive district title for Nolan, who is also a senior.
"It was fun. I thought I played pretty well," Nolan said. "My serve was really on. Presley put up a good fight, and we had a nice match."
Rutherford will be the first individual from Skyline to play in the Region II singles tournament.
Skyline coach John Natalie said that he was very happy with Rutherford's effort in the final.
"[Rutherford] had some amazing shots," Natalie said. "She had some very good tactical shots and she stroked the ball really well. She was just up against a superior opponent today."
Nolan teamed with Kathryn Bock to win the doubles title as well. They defeated James Wood's Fae Schweitzer and Ashley Hillyard, 6-0, 6-0, in the final.
The Handey pair are the defending Group AA state champions, but it was only the second time they've played together since Bock returned from a bicep tendonitis injury that sidelined her for a month.
"It's amazing being back out there," Bock said. "Not being able to play, just watching -- it was frustrating. I'm back now and I can't wait for team and doubles and everything."
Nolan and Bock have been playing together since they were little. The pair said there is a little pressure on them, being the defending champs, but they try to just play and not think about it.
"We just come out and try to have fun," Nolan said. "We just take it day by day and have fun with it.
"I'm real excited for regionals. There's some tough teams out there. We'll have to work hard, but I have faith in us."
Rutherford still has plenty to look forward to this season. Along with playing in the individual singles tournament, she and her teammates will play at Western Albemarle on Monday at 5 p.m. in the Region II quarterfinals.
"I'm very excited about that," Rutherford said. "I always love playing as a team, because we're all friends and we kind of feed off each other."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org