By Tommy Keeler Jr.
BERRYVILLE -- After a delayed start to the season, Stonewall Jackson's girls tennis team finally hit the courts Thursday for its season-opening match.
The Generals came up a little short in a 6-3 loss to Clarke County in non-district action.
"I was ready to get it started and they were too," Stonewall Jackson coach Cindy Wilkins said. "We've had a lot of indoor practices. They were definitely ready to get going, so I'm glad we were able to get it in today."
The Generals lost five of their top six from last year to graduation, and their inexperience showed against a veteran Clarke County squad.
The Eagles were able to take four of the six singles matches, with the wins coming from their top four returners from last season.
The Eagles took a 1-0 lead with a 10-3 win by Callie Elliston over Colleen Shamburg at No. 1 singles. The Generals responded with wins at No. 5 and 6 singles. Stonewall Jackson's Sage Dougherty beat Fani Jaya, 10-1, at No. 5, and Amber Fisher defeated Dania Al-Thawabteh, 10-0, at No. 6.
"All of my top six seeds are pretty close in talent, and they'll probably be flip flopping back and forth," Wilkins said. "The weather's been so bad, we haven't really had a chance to do a lot of challenge matches. I do expect them to flip flop a little bit back and forth, because they're all pretty equal."
At No. 2 singles, Clarke County's Erika Hutchinson defeated Stonewall Jackson's Tracy Barb, 10-5, to even the team match at 2-2.
Both matches at No. 3 and 4 singles were very close early on. At No. 3, Clarke County's Samantha Smith and Stonewall Jackson's Carly Litten played a very long eighth game, which Litten eventually won to tie things at 4-4.
Smith responded by taking six of the last seven games for a 10-5 victory and a 3-2 team advantage.
At No. 4 singles, Clarke County's Katy Kosiorek led Stonewall Jackson's Elizabeth Moomaw 4-3. Kosiorek won five of the next six games to take a 9-4 edge. Moomaw battled back to cut the lead to 9-6, before Kosiorek finished the match off to give the Eagles a 4-2 lead.
"They were key matches," Wilkins said of the matches at 3 and 4 singles. "I do think we could have won those matches and that could have been a turning point."
Dougherty and Fisher beat Jaya and Al-Thawabteh, 10-3, at No. 3 doubles to cut the lead to 4-3.
The Eagles sealed the match with a win by Hutchinson and Kosiorek over Litten and Moomaw, 10-4 at No. 2 doubles. Hutchinson finished the match with an overhead smash.
"For our first match it was a positive experience," Clarke County coach Will Schulhof said. "Obviously, we have a lot of things to work on. We had a lot of errors. But by and large we kept it together and did what we needed to do."
At No. 1 doubles, Elliston and Smith built an 8-4 lead, but Shamburg and Barb battled back to cut the lead to 8-7. Elliston and Smith regrouped to win the final two games and the match.
With a young squad, Wilkins said it was a good match for her team.
"It was a good learning experience," Wilkins said. "A lot of these players have never played in a seeded match before, so they were very nervous."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd