By Tommy Keeler Jr.
FRONT ROYAL -- Madison Ferst's goal this season was to be first -- play at the No. 1 spot -- this season, and the Warren County senior accomplished that and then some.
Ferst, who played mostly at No. 5 and 6 singles last year, made the big leap to the Wildcats' top spot and had success there.
"I really wanted to be No. 1," Ferst said. "I think I did really well. I did the best I could against all the strong opponents, and I think we had an overall good season."
One of the biggest things Ferst did was to lead the Wildcats to the best season in program history.
Warren County advanced to the Group 3A East Regional semifinals, just one win from a state berth.
Ferst's leadership was certainly part of that success, and just part of what made her The Northern Virginia Daily's 2014 Girls Tennis Player of the Year.
"Leadership material from day one," Warren County coach Jeannie Tallent said of Ferst. "She was a leader in the classroom. She can speak her mind. She knows what it takes. She can get them organized, she can get them going. I don't think I've ever heard anything negative come out of her mouth in the years I've coached her, or even in the classroom. She's always stayed on the positive side, 'We can do this.'"
"I tried to be a momma, I guess, for the team," Ferst said. "I tried to be there if anybody needs anything. I like being a leader of our team. I also like the group leadership between me and the other seniors, definitely a good family that we have on our tennis team."
Ferst said she first started playing tennis in seventh grade, and the next she joined the tennis team and began to love it more and more.
She played towards the bottom of the top six as a sophomore and junior, and Ferst said it was a good learning experience for her.
In the offseason she and her teammates hit around together a lot, and helped each other improve their games. Ferst said it was also a good bonding time for the players.
"Everyone on the team basically returned from last year, and we all progressed in the offseason to better ourselves for this season," Ferst said. "So I think we learned together and grew as a team together."
Ferst's playing style isn't what many might think of when watching a top player play. She's not a big powerful hitter, but she makes up for it by playing smart, moving her opponent around and keeping them off balance.
Many times this season, Ferst was able to frustrate her opponents.
"I'd like to think that I'm a thinker more than a strong hitter," Ferst said. "I tend to like to come up with a little bit of a game play whether it be moving them side to side, or moving them back, or trying to make different angles on my serves. Just trying to throw an odd ball in there -- even a lob. Just try to switch up my game as much as I can so they aren't prepared for it."
Ferst said it was definitely difficult playing at No. 1 this season, and it was much different than playing at the bottom of the tennis ladder the last couple seasons.
"It's a small fish in a really big pond. It was shocking, but I definitely loved the experience," Ferst said. "I loved being able to play the great players that I did, and I learned a lot this season. I learned how to take harder serves, lightning-fast line shots."
Ferst played in the Conference 28 singles tournament, falling in the semifinals to John Champe's Anahita Moseberry.
Ferst suffered an arm injury late in the season, which didn't help her cause, but she said she was still very happy with how she played.
As a team, Ferst said she couldn't be any happier with how the season went. The Wildcats won the Conference 28 title, which Ferst said was her favorite moment of the season.
"I'm super-happy. We were [in the top eight] in the state. We won our conference," Ferst said. "I definitely loved it. It was probably one of my favorite seasons. The seniors were great, developed great relationships with underclassmen, and we did amazing overall."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd