By Brad Fauber
STEPHENS CITY -- Sherando junior Nikolas Mikus will gladly fight through tough tennis matches like the one the Warriors had on Thursday evening against traditional Northwestern District powerhouse Handley, as long as doing so makes him better on the court.
Mikus fell to Judges sophomore Carter Watts, 10-3, in the No. 2 singles match in the Warriors' eventual 9-0 loss to Handley, but the true value of Thursday's match may lie in the experience he gained from competing against someone of Watts' caliber.
"If I can learn something from the game, I'll be happy with that," Mikus said.
Sherando, which was short three players on Thursday, had a tough time against the Judges in the singles matches, as Mikus' loss and freshman Cameron Spieles' 10-3 defeat at the hands of Matt Pointer at No. 6 singles were the most competitive for the Warriors.
In No. 2 singles, Mikus fell quickly behind 5-0 to Watts, but Mikus was able to win a few games midway through the set to make it 8-3 before eventually falling.
"He did a good job of keeping it out of my strike zone with topspin. That was about it," Mikus said. "I just had lucky shots, that's all."
Warriors coach Steve Jennings was a little more optimistic about Mikus' performance.
"He held up very, very well. He was hitting some nice balls," Jennings said. "As big as that young man was from Handley -- that boy was strong -- Nik had patience, he played well. I just said 'Nik, you've got to keep the ball deep.' He was hitting some nice strokes, so I was really proud."
Handley sophomore Parker Wilson -- who teamed up with Watts' brother Taylor last season to advance all the way to the state finals in doubles competition -- made quick work of Warriors senior Matt Blaney in No. 1 singles. Wilson won the match 10-0.
Shortly after Wilson's win, Judges sophomore Tabor Thwing beat Sherando junior Andrew Graber at No. 4 singles, Handley's Parker Dorsey beat senior Jared Linz-van der Crommert at No. 3 singles and Judges sophomore Will Niessner topped sophomore Seth Anton at No. 5 singles all by scores of 10-1.
"I feel very good. My gentlemen did very well. They did as well as could be expected," Jennings said. "Behaviorally they were wonderful. There was no arguing and no fussing. I thought that they were having fun out there."
In No. 1 doubles, Wilson and Carter Watts showed off their strength against Sherando's combo of Blaney and Mikus, as the Handley duo rolled to a 10-1 win.
Dorsey and Thwing picked up a 10-2 win over Linz-van de Crommert and Graber in No. 2 doubles, but the closest match of the evening came at No. 3 doubles. Sherando's Spieles teamed up with sophomore Aaron Pyne and the duo trailed Niessner and Forrest Roberson just 7-4 before eventually falling 10-5.
"This is the first time [Pyne] has ever played in a match and I thought he played really well at No. 3 doubles. I saw some wonderful shots from him," Jennings said.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD