By Tommy Keeler Jr.
STEPHENS CITY -- Sherando has had a history of strong players at the top spot of its boys tennis teams. After steadily moving up the tennis ladder, senior Matt Blaney is ready to take on that role.
Blaney has moved up at least one spot each year, and said he's excited to be the No. 1 player for the Warriors.
"The way that it's worked out for me is really great, because I've gone up every year," Blaney said. "Just hard work every offseason, just progressed a lot. And this year I get to really show off what I've worked on for the past four years. I'm looking forward to it."
In the past year players such as current Mary Washington player Kaleb Nguyen and Trey Scott have been perched at the top. Last year Nick Mikus was the No. 1 player, and kept the strong tradition going by making the regional final.
Blaney, who played at No. 2 last year, said he learned a lot from Mikus.
"He's probably the biggest help out for me being out here on the court," Blaney said of Mikus. "He taught me a lot. He had a lot of heart. He really taught me how to run for every ball, run for every point. That's probably been the biggest growth point that I've had in my time here at Sherando."
Blaney said he started playing tennis after his younger sister began playing and he's loved it ever since.
As a freshman, Blaney was in the starting lineup at No. 6 on a very talented Sherando squad which reached the regional final.
"It was a really great learning experience, just being around all these guys that we had, all the seniors that year," Blaney said of his freshman year. "They were really incredible, so that was a really good learning experience."
Blaney moved up to No. 3 in his sophomore season, and then went up another position last year.
In the offseason, Blaney said he's worked hard on improving his serve and his volleys.
He is also coached by Matt Rosner outside of school. Rosner is a former James Madison University player who now works for the Frederick County Parks and Recreation Department.
Blaney said Rosner has helped him a lot with his game, which includes a one-handed backhand just like his favorite player Roger Federer.
Blaney is also helping out with the parks and rec and works with youngsters during the offseason.
"It's been a lot of fun," Blaney said of working with the youngsters. "When it comes down to end of the match it comes down to fundamentals, and teaching those fundamentals over and over and over again really grinds it in."
Sherando coach Steve Jennings said Blaney's game is very solid, and he's looking forward to watching him play at the top spot this season.
"His form doesn't break down," Jennings said. "I think that's a positive thing about him. His form doesn't break down even in the late parts of the match, his form is still there."
The Warriors have a young squad this season, which includes four freshmen. Blaney and Jared Linz-VanDe Crommert are the only two seniors on the squad.
Blaney said he wants to be a good leader for the rest of the team.
"I'm looking forward to working with all the younger guys, and get them tuned up for when I'm not here," Blaney said.
Last year Blaney played with Mikus in the Region II doubles tournament. Blaney said the experience was a good one, and will help him this season.
Blaney said he's ready for the challenge of being the top player at Sherando.
"It's my time to play," Blaney said. "I'm excited for it. I've worked really hard for it."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or email@example.com