Refreshed Lukens ready to lead Sherando’s girls tennis squad

Sherando's Abigale Lukens hits the ball during a warmup last year. Lukens, a senior, is ready to lead the Warriors to success this year . Rich Cooley/Daily file

Sherando's Abigale Lukens hits the ball during a warmup last year. Lukens, a senior, is ready to lead the Warriors to success this year . Rich Cooley/Daily file

STEPHENS CITY – Abigale Lukens was feeling a little burnt out on tennis during the offseason so she decided to take a break from the sport. Now feeling refreshed the Sherando senior is eager to lead the Warriors to another strong year.

“I needed to just kind of prioritize my life and just decide what was important,” Lukens said. “Was winning important all the time? And I realized, no it wasn’t. Tennis is a chance to come together as a family and as a team and just challenge each other and grow each other and just have fun. I really had to realize that I wanted to have fun this year. I think that’s my top priority.”

Lukens has played a big role in Sherando’s resurgence over the last few years.

She said she began playing tennis at 12, after hitting with her mom and discovering that she enjoyed the sport. Then she began playing for the Warriors as a freshman.

Sherando was in a rebuilding mode at that point, and Lukens was thrust into the top part of the lineup without a lot of experience.

“I was still learning tennis as a game, so I had to learn how to play tennis as well as learn how to help lead the team,” Lukens said. “It’s just kind of hard for someone so young. But it was definitely a growing experience. … I learned that it’s important to challenge yourself no matter what situation you’re thrown into.”

As a sophomore Lukens moved to the No. 1 spot on the team, and helped lead the team to a little more success.

She said it was tough playing at the top spot, but it was another good learning experience.

Lukens said she also learned a lot from Handley’s top player that season, Kathryn Bock, who won the state singles title that year.

“She was amazing, and I enjoyed playing her,” Lukens said. “She was so good, but it was so enjoyable. It was so challenging and fun and just looking back I was in awe of her. I was just so amazed at how good she was, but she was just so kind and generous on the court. She was willing to be friendly and welcoming and I wanted to be like that. This year I want to be kind to people and have fun.”

Lukens said she let her competitive nature get the better of her a little in her sophomore year, but she learned from it.

Her junior season provided competition from her own teammate. Lukens and Abby Sears split time at No. 1 last year.

They each won challenge matches to help decide the top spot. Near the end of the season Sherando coach Trevor Johnson said he decided to have Sears play at No. 1 in the team matches and have Lukens represent the team in individual singles play.

Lukens said she and Sears are great friends, and they are also doubles partners. She said they are so close that even though they are competitive with each other it never gets in the way of their friendship.

“When I first met Abby I was like, ‘Oh no, here comes trouble.’ But we just get along so well that it’s not hard to compete for that spot,” Lukens said.

Lukens said she worked on her game with Matt Rosner from Frederick County Parks and Recreation for three years, and then also worked with Jim Scott at Winchester Country Club. She said they both have helped her with her game over the years. Lukens said that she’s comfortable on both her forehand and backhand side.

She said that she enjoys the mental side of the game, and Johnson said he noticed a difference in that area last year.

“Junior year the focus was on playing more of a mental game,” Johnson said. “… I even told the other players I could see her thinking on the court. She was aggressive and wasn’t playing a game where it’s back and forth, back and forth, let’s see who makes a mistake. She was trying to get the opponent to make a mistake, being aggressive.”

Last year the Warriors went 14-4, and lost in the conference semifinals to Loudoun County, one win away from a regional berth.

The team has high hopes again this season, having lost only two players from that team and with some solid new additions. Lukens said it’s been nice to see the program improve the last three years.

“I think it’s been neat, because I’ve grown with the program as the program has grown,” Lukens said. “It’s just really cool, and I hope it continues to grow. And athletes continue to come out and play tennis and just enjoy themselves and have fun.”

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

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