Hawks dominate Culpeper

FRONT ROYAL – Three factors helped Skyline girls’ tennis No. 1 Kaylee Venable win big on Monday afternoon.

In the Hawks’ 6-1 weather-shortened victory over Conference 28 rival Culpeper, Venable won her singles match over Blue Devil Haley Billings 8-1, then returned with doubles teammate Alex Hickman for an 8-3 victory over Billings and teammate Steph Sanchez.

The match ultimately was over when Skylne No. 6 Therese de Halleux took the measure of Culpeper’s Kiara Rudacille 9-8 (7-6).

That match gave the Hawks (5-9 overall, 3-3 Conference 28) a 5-1 lead, enough victories for the team win before the doubles commenced.

The success reversed an opening-season loss at the hands of the Blue Devils, 5-4, at Culpeper on March 15. The latter fell to 2-12 overall, 1-5 in the conference.

Venable, a junior who has played on the team since the eighth grade, picked up her 11th victory of the season against four singles losses.

Weather-permitting, she will meet Abigale Lukens, the No. 1 player for Sherando, on Tuesday when the Hawks and the Warriors compete. Venable has already mastered Lukens once this year, but Skyline took the match 8-1 at Sherando.

But Venable, whose mother Lisa helps coach the team with head man John Natalie, had more than Lukens and the Warriors on her mind on Monday.

Even before the match began, the decision was made by Skyline athletic personnel to play each match to 8 points, rather than the conventional 10, but when droplets of rain started falling-along with a dash of lightning, the match was called early.

The Hawks’ top player, a junior, just barely got her match in before the first signs of a shower. She said she wanted to get her team the victory and attack the dry conditions as they existed, but she also wanted to see her horse, Sir Schaumburg, nicknamed “Shorty” because “it’s ironic.”

“He’s about 17 hands (high),” she said.

Along with focusing on tennis, Venable also shows jumpers, including Sir Schaumburg. She had a workout scheduled and wanted to see the big fellow, although she had already spent time with him on Sunday. She plans to show this spring.

“Well, I wanted to get the match in, win it, win as a team and then go see my horse,” she said.

Venable, Hickman and third player Jakya Jones all won 8-1 – the first such string of the season – while Culpeper’s No. 4 Megan Clubb took an 8-2 victory over Skyline’s Becca Willard; senior Hannah Henry dusted off Dadrianna Minor 8-5.

“I’ve been on the team a while,” said Hickman, a junior, “but I really haven’t played seriously since the last two years. It’s a learning experience, and, if anything, I’m becoming more aggressive.”

Venable showed good top-spin against Billings, sending several shots with reverse English at her opponent.

“That was the plan,” she said. “I tried to do that and then work on some of my shots.”

Indeed, as the No. 1 singles match wore on, her forehands became more intense and she showed a strong serve.

Jones and Bridgett Berkeley were ahead of Lauren Simpson-Clubb 5-2 when the match was halted. Henry and Colleen Tran were just beginning to play Minor-Rudacille when action was stopped.

Pending weather delays, the Hawks conclude their regular season this week and then move on to team conference play. Seeding depends on a points-system based on strength of opponent, according to Skyline coach Natalie.

“The way things are right now, we should finish no lower than fifth, but we’ll have to see,” he said.

Skyline has whipped conference foe Brentsville twice and non-conference Central twice to go with Monday’s triumph.