Warriors win Conference 21 West girls tennis title for first school banner

Sherando's Abigale Lukens returns a volley from Handley's Meredith Watts during conference finals Wednesday afternoon in Stephens City. Rich Cooley/Daily

STEPHENS CITY — Sherando’s first Conference 21 West girls tennis title and first-ever school banner was delayed but not denied on Wednesday.

The Warriors endured a three hour rain delay, in which their match with Handley was moved to Stonebrook Racquet and Fitness Club. Once play resumed the Warriors finished off what they started with a convincing 5-1 victory over the Judges.

“For us this is everything,” Sherando’s Abby Sears said. “We’re the only team that doesn’t have a banner in the gym. We’re probably one of the less respected teams at our school, and we just wanted to prove ourselves. We deserve it. We wanted it and we got it. This is amazing for us.”

Sherando (15-1) will play in the Region 4A West tournament in two weeks. It is only the Warriors’ second regional berth in school history. Sherando will have a first-round bye and host a quarterfinal match on May 30.

Sherando’s Alexa Venturato (No. 2 singles), Sears (No. 3), Alisa van de Crommert (No. 5) and Meredith Gregg (No. 6) each won the first set before the rain came. Handley’s Meredith Watts won the first set at No. 1 singles, while Sherando’s Sarah Beth Blaney and Handley’s Lillian Smith were locked in a tight battle in the first set when the rain came at 5:30 p.m.

Sherando's Alexa Venturato returns a shot against Handley's Olivia Truban during a match earlier this year in Stephens City. The Warriors host Salem today in the Region 4A West semifinals. Rich Cooley/Daily file

They tried to dry the courts after the rain had stopped, but more rain began to fall and so they were able to reserve three courts at Stonebrook at 8:30 p.m. to finish the match.

Venturato, a freshman, needed only 13 minutes after the delay to defeat Handley’s Olivia Truban, 6-2, 6-0, and put the Warriors up 1-0.

“She’s got a very nice all-around game,” Sherando coach Trevor Johnson said of Venturato. “She’s a freshman, so she’s only going to get better. She’s very smart on the court. Every time she’s played Truban she’s gotten better and better and better. I think the first time she lost to her in the tiebreaker, and then second time she won 10-8, and this time she won 6-2, 6-0. She just really felt comfortable and did well.”

Watts evened the match up with a 6-0, 6-3 win over Abigale Lukens.

Lukens had a break point in the fifth game of the second set to take the lead, but couldn’t convert. Watts was able to pull away from there.

Sherando's Abigale Lukens chases the ball during a volley from Handley's Meredith Watts during conference finals Wednesday afternoon in Stephens City. Rich Cooley/Daily

Sears found herself in a tough match against Handley’s Josie Sydnor. Sears won the first set comfortably, but Sydnor picked up her game once they moved indoors.

“She definitely played a lot better inside than she did outside,” Sears said. “She definitely brought it the second time around. Not only did I think that she played better inside than she did outside, I feel like my mental game really wasn’t there and I was just more mad at myself than anything.”

Sears served for the match twice, but had her serve broken each time. Sears took control of the tiebreaker early on and won the match, 6-2, 7-6 (2).

“For me in my head it was just like ‘Ok, she’s bringing it, just bring it right back,'” Sears said of the tiebreaker. “I think a switch went in my head like ‘OK, this is happening. Come on.'”

Sherando’s van de Crommert finished off Handley’s Lillian Smith, 6-0, 6-2 for a 3-1 Sherando lead.

Blaney pulled out a tough first set by breaking Smith’s serve in the first game that they played indoors. The second set was just as close.

Blaney took a 4-1 lead, but Smith won the next two games. Blaney held serve for 5-3, and after Smith held serve again, Blaney served for the match.

During Blaney’s last game Greeg Finished off her match against Saloni Sabatino, 6-2, 6-3, to put Sherando up 4-1.

Blaney said she was aware that if she won the team would clinch the title.

“I knew that it came down to me,” Blaney said. “I knew as a team it would be much nicer just to get this match over with. We wouldn’t have to go to doubles.”

Blaney was up 40-love, but Smith saved all three match points. An unforced error gave Blaney another match point, and she converted it on another error from Smith to seal the team victory.

“It gave me all the motivation in the world knowing that my team was waiting there for me to be done,” Blaney said. “To be able to run off the courts. To be able to hug my mom. She came running down the stairs to hug me — saying she’s so proud of me.”

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