By Tommy Keeler Jr.
FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County's Lauren Woodrell and Bridget Backstrom had all the pressure on them in Monday's Region 3A East quarterfinal with Kettle Run. With one set at No. 2 doubles to decide the match, the Warren County pair collected themselves and focused on winning for the team.
The pair pulled out the win to give the Wildcats a 5-4 girls tennis victory over Kettle Run. The win sends the Wildcats to the Region 3A semifinals, where they will host Lafayette on Wednesday at 3 p.m. with a state semifinal berth on the line.
"There's no words to describe how happy I am right now," Backstrom said moments after the win with a smile on her face. "I never imagined us going this far, but I know we're going to keep going. I think after getting over this hurdle, we know we're going to keep on going."
Woodrell and Backstrom won the first 6-2, but then lost the second set 6-4. That left one set to decide it all, and the pair knew they had to stay focused for the team.
"It was just really nerve-wracking after we lost the second set," Backstrom said. "I knew that we had to keep going, and it kind of motivated me to stay positive ands keep working hard."
"When we lost the second set, we were kind of like 'oh crap, here we again,'" Woodrell said. "Then we pulled it out. That last set I had butterflies in my stomach the whole time."
Early on the Wildcats looked in complete control. They won singles matches at No. 3, 5 and 6 in just a little over an hour.
Kettle Run's Alex Smith beat Warren County's Madison Ferst, 6-4, 6-2, at No. 1 singles to cut the lead to 3-1.
At No. 4 singles, Warren County's Jayme Goode won the first set 6-3 over Kettle Run's Nicole Starkey, but quickly fell behind 4-1 in the second set. Goode regrouped to win the next five games and put the Wildcats up 4-1.
"I hit a lot of shots in the net in the first two games and that put me behind at first. I had to get my head back in the game for that," Goode said of her comeback. "You just gotta look at the game point-by-point. You can't hold onto the past."
Goode also got a little pep talk from Warren County coach Jeannie Tallent.
"She just looked at me and was like coach 'I'm tired. This girl runs cross country.' I said 'I don't care what she runs you run this court,'" Tallent said of the pep talk. "I said 'you've owned this court all season.' I said 'play your game. That's Jayme Goode's court, take ownership of it.' And all of a sudden it was back to her game.
"I'm proud of her, really proud of her."
At No. 2 singles, Kettle Run's Amanda Landry held off Woodrell, 7-5, 7-5 to cut the lead to 4-2.
At No. 3 doubles, freshman pair Pearl Moore and Jamie Kitzmiller fell to Kettle Run's Maggie Clinard and Shannon McAvoy, 6-2, 6-2.
At No. 1 doubles, Smith and Landry beat Ferst and Morgan Walton, 6-4, 7-6 (5) to cut the match at 4-4.
The Wildcats (14-2) had lost six straight matches to the Cougars. The two schools used to be in the same district, Evergreen, until Warren County moved to the Bull Run District this season.
Woodrell said she's surprised at how well the team has done this season.
"You look at some of these districts that have more money, and their players are doing [USTA] tournament play, and they're playing all-year round with private coaches and they're doing country clubs and our team doesn't really do that," Woodrell said. "In the back of you mind you're kind of going how far are we going to really go? But it just makes it that much sweeter, because people don't expect you to win, and we keep on pulling it out."
Tallent said she thinks her team learned some valuable lessons in the win over the Cougars, and their confidence is growing.
"I think the more we win, the more we believe in ourselves, the more we understand how to fight even in coming from behind," Tallent said. "I think we understand it takes the entire team to do it. You keep fighting. They look to each other. ... They understand it takes all of them to do it. They're there to support each other."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd