By Tommy Keeler Jr.
WINCHESTER -- Tuesday was a long day for Sherando's Chris Mikus, but in the end it was certainly worth it.
The Sherando senior played three matches and advanced to the Region II individual singles final. Mikus will play Loudoun County's Jack McLister in today's final at 11 a.m. at Millbrook High School.
Mikus defeated Kettle Run's Chase Rathbone, 6-1, 6-0 in the semifinals to advance to the final. McLister beat Handley's Parker Wilson 6-3, 7-5 in the other semifinal at Millbrook.
Mikus battled the heat and a tough opponent in his quarterfinal match with Powhatan's Evan Pfab.
When things became tight, Mikus was able to step up his game as he pulled out a 6-4, 6-4 win over Pfab.
"It was definitely back and forth a lot of the time," Mikus said. "It was pretty much whoever got that break."
The two traded service breaks for the first four games, and eventually wound up at 4-4. Mikus then used a service winner to help pull out the ninth game and put the pressure on Pfab to hold serve.
The Sherando senior took a 15-40 lead, and two points later won the opening set on an error from Pfab.
Mikus was able to build a 5-1 lead in the second set, before Pfab came back strong with three consecutive games.
Once again Mikus was up to the challenge. At 30-30 on Pfab's serve, Mikus waited patiently for errors from Pfab and pull out the one-hour, 15-minute match.
"My opponent had lots of heavy topspin, he hit a heavy ball," Mikus said. "I just had to bear in mind that I had to stay consistent, be patient with that ball, wait for that opportunity to come and just take that opportunity. And also remember to have that footwork and pace the ball accordingly -- don't try to rush the point."
Things started off well for Mikus and Sherando teammate Matt Blaney in the Region II individual doubles quarterfinals. The Sherando pair took the first set from Fauquier's Nicholas Solhjou and Jonathan Simpson.
"We did a good job of taking charge of the first set and keeping control of the pace," Mikus said. "Matt played great in the first set. I think we had a good frame of mind and good control of the first set throughout."
Solhjou and Simpson fought back hard in the second set and built leads of 3-1 and 5-3. The Sherando pair battled and won three consecutive games for a 6-5 lead. The Sherando pair had match point in the 12th game, but an unforced error kept things going. After two deuces, Solhjou held serve to force a tiebreak. The Fauquier pair built a quick 4-0 lead and went on to win it 7-2.
Solhjou and Simpson rode the momentum of the second set and controlled the third set for the 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-1 victory in one-hour and 41 minutes.
"[After the first set] I could have definitely clamped down on those unforced errors," Mikus said. "I hit a lot more than I needed to, especially at the net. Fauquier County played great today."
"I think that they were just deflated at the end of the second set," Sherando coach Steve Jennings said. "After that they were mentally down."
Despite the loss, Blaney said it was a great experience for him to just be part of the individual tournament.
"It's pretty cool," Blaney said. ". It's fun just to come out here and see everybody. Everybody plays at such a high level."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org