Warriors fall in conference semis

STEPHENS CITY — Sherando battled back from the brink several times, but couldn’t overcome a large deficit.

The Warriors fell 5-3 to Loudoun County in the Conference 21 girls tennis tournament. With the win the Raiders clinch a Region 4A North berth, while Sherando’s season came to an end.

“I’m proud of the way my girls battled, but they didn’t play well today,” Sherando coach Trevor Johnson said. “They battled, but it wasn’t our best effort of the season. When you’re playing against girls whose objective is just to get the ball back and not make a mistake — my girls need to elevate their game to that next level. Where they don’t play down to their level — they attack. There were moments where they did that, but it wasn’t consistent enough.”

The highlight of the day for Sherando came from freshman Sarah Blaney at No. 5 singles.

With the Warriors’ backs against the wall, Blaney kept the team match alive with an impressive rally. She outlasted Loudoun County’s Daniella Hafner, 3-6, 7-6 (2), 7-5 in a match that lasted four hours and four minutes.

“I would say that match I dug deeper than I’ve ever dug before,” Blaney said. “The way I kept digging deeper was because I kept thinking I’ll be out here until 10 o’clock. I don’t care how late I’m out here. This is for me, this is for my team.”

Blaney saved three match points, one in the second set and two more in the third.

Many of the points were more than a minute long with both players rallying from the baseline and keeping the ball in play.

The second set went back and forth. Blaney led 5-4, but then lost the next two games to go down 6-5 with Hafner serving for the match. Blaney saved a match point at 40-30, and then won the following two points to force a tiebreak.

Blaney dominated the tiebreak to set up a third set.

Sherando’s Abigail Sears and Abigale Lukens lost at No. 1 doubles to Alexa Kling and Abbey Marble give the Raiders a 4-2 team lead while the No. 5 singles match was still going on.

Blaney said she knew the situation when she saw Sears and Lukens walked off the court.

“That just made me know that I needed to push harder and that everything I do is for my team,” Blaney said.

Blaney trailed 5-3 in the third set. She broke to cut the lead to 5-4, then saved two match points on an overhead smash and an error before eventually holding serve for 5-5.

Blaney then broke serve again, and held to wrap the marathon match.

“I kept visualizing myself during the match ‘imagine yourself shaking her hand and knowing you’ve won, you’re a winner. That you did this, that you we’re out here for hours,” Blaney said. “I felt like I could do anything. I felt that it was incredible, and I was so lucky to be out there on the court.”

Sherando’s No. 2 doubles team of Alisa van de Crommert and Olivia Scott mounted a comeback of their own. The pair trailed 5-2 in the second set, saved two match points, before falling 6-3, 6-4 to Ashley Riley and Hafner to end the over six-hour team match.

Blaney and Maria Acosta led 7-5, 5-4 at No. 3 doubles when the No. 2 doubles match ended.

Sherando’s Scott won at No. 4 singles, 6-0, 6-1 over Adidi Bawa, but Kling beat Sears at No. 1 singles to even things up.

Loudoun County’s Marble and Riley each won at No. 2 and 3 singles to give the Raiders a 3-1 edge. Marble rallied from 5-2 down in the first set for a 7-5, 6-2 win over Lukens.

At No. 6 singles, Sherando’s Acosta won 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 over Harshitha Narayanan in one hour and 49 minutes to cut the lead to 3-2.

The Warriors set a school-record for wins this season and finished with a 14-4 record. They only have two seniors in the top six, Johnson said he hopes the loss will be a good learning experience for next year.

“I hope that some of the young ones realize when they were aggressive and they were at the net, and they stopped playing patty cake with the girls, they weren’t losing points,” Johnson said. “I think that’s what they need to do. I can’t be disappointed. I’m disappointed we lost, we beat them 6-3 last time, and we didn’t play well today.”

“They’re growing and there still a young team. They had the best season ever in Sherando history.

” … They did a great job.”

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