Down the line

Sherando's Abigale Lukens hits the ball during a warmup on Tuesday. Lukens has helped lead the Warriors to a 5-1 start this season. Rich Cooley/Daily

STEPHENS CITY — One of the most important things in high school tennis is depth. It’s something Sherando’s girls tennis squad has a lot of and it’s shown in the team’s results this season.

The Warriors returned their top six from last season, and also have a freshman in the top six, which has helped them to a 5-1 start.

“I think our team’s very strong this year because we have depth, and we’re all working really hard together and practicing a lot,” Sherando junior Abigale Lukens said. “And we’re just having fun.”

Lukens and sophomore Abigail Sears have held down the top two spots on the team the last two years, switching back and forth from the 1 and 2 spots.

Junior Alisa van de Crommert is currently playing at No. 3. The bottom part of the ladder is made up of senior Olivia Scott, freshman Sarah Blaney and senior Maria Acosta.

“A lot of people, coaches on other teams and our coach always says we have a lot of depth, and we’re training really hard and trying our best,” Acosta said. “I think this year we’re going to do better than we have in most years.”

In a win over perennial power Loudoun County, the Warriors picked up wins at the bottom four singles slots to help them pull out a 6-3 victory on March 23.

“The bottom part of our lineup has been huge,” Sherando coach Trevor Johnson said. “[Before playing Loudoun County] I said, ‘Girls, I can’t predict what’s going to happen, because they’ve beaten everybody 9-0.’ I said, ‘I know we have depth,’ and that depth really paid off when their one and two won, but everybody else on my team won. It really helps out a lot because a lot of teams have a really good one and two, but it falls off after that.”

Johnson said one of the biggest things with his team is that they love to challenge each other and push other. He said in past years the players haven’t wanted to battle each other in challenge matches very much.

The players are constantly pushing each other to get better. The top two spots is a prime example of that. Last year, Sears and Lukens swapped places before Lukens took over and held it for the majority of the season. Lukens started this season at the top spot, but lost it to Sears a few weeks ago. At the end of last week, Lukens again won the top spot back.

“It doesn’t really matter who is one or two. We just want to do whatever is best for the team,” Sears said. “We get along well. We play doubles together.”

Lukens said it doesn’t matter what position each player is at, the most important thing is helping each other to improve.

“I think we all kind of look up to each other no matter what place we are just because we see how hard we’re all working,” Lukens said. “I feel really good about our team. I think we communicate well and we’re all motivated and we motivate each other.”

Since most of the team is returning from last season, the Warriors have developed a very good chemistry, which the players said also helps.

“We were just talking about how we are going to have a team dinner. We do a lot of that,” Scott said.

Johnson said that he’s had more players taking lessons at Winchester Country Club or at Stonebrook Racquet and Fitness Club in Winchester than he has in the past. The players also try to get together over the summer and hit as well.

Blaney said it’s been a great experience for her as a freshman.

“It’s definitely a learning experience,” Blaney said. “I was a little bit nervous coming out, but I kind of adapted and made new friends, and I love it out here. … I didn’t expect my team to become my family so quickly, but it has. I feel that we have a lot in common and that brings us together.”

Sherando still has a young squad, with only seniors on the team. Johnson said he has three freshman just outside the top six.

The Warriors advanced to the Conference 21 semifinals last year, just one match short of regionals. With plenty of experience back from last year’s squad, the team has high hopes for the rest of the season.

“I think we just want to be able to do our best and just get further than we did before,” van de Crommert said.

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com