2016 Girls Tennis Coach of the Year: Johnson guides Warriors to banner year

STEPHENS CITY — Last year Sherando girls tennis coach Trevor Johnson took his team members into the Sherando gym and asked them to look around at all the banners hanging on the wall. He asked them if they noticed what was missing and they responded that they did not have a banner. This season the Warriors fixed that with a record-breaking season.

Sherando won a school-record 17 matches, and won the Conference 21 West tournament title and the Northwestern District title to earn their first-ever banner. They also advanced to the Group 4A state semifinals.

“I think that motivated them a little bit,” Johnson said of last year’s trip to the gym. “So I said this year I got to do something a little different. So I took a picture of the boys tennis banner and I took a picture of a girls banner, and I photoshopped it. I created one that was theirs and I put it on here at our first meeting. I had a picture of it and they are like ‘it’s our banner,’ and I said ‘no girls I made this. This is not yours, you need to still earn it.’ I said “I think this is what I think you can do.'”

Johnson’s motivation seemed to work, and he said the most important thing this season was his team started to believe that they were capable of doing great things.

Johnson, The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2016 Girls Tennis Coach of the Year, said that they chanted “believe” after every practice during the season.

One of the biggest wins of the season was a 5-4 victory over rival Handley. It was Sherando’s first-ever win over Handley in girls tennis. They beat Handley two more times during the season.

“It’s all about inches,” Johnson said. “It’s all about just one little thing and it could have gone another way. We won that match 5-4 and then the next match we won 8-1, and then the next match we won, 5-0. That could have been totally different if they had won 5-4 and who knows what could have happened.”

Johnson said the first win over Handley gave team members a real confidence boost and they carried with them the rest of the season.

The Warriors won the Conference 21 West title and then earned the top seed in Region 4A West. They lost during the regular season to North Hagerstown, Maryland, splitting two matches with them.

Their next loss didn’t come until the Region 4A West final, 5-4, to E.C. Glass. The Warriors were within 2 points of winning the match, before eventually losing in a very close match.

Sherando had defeated Salem, 5-2, in the regional semifinals to earn its first-ever state berth. In the state semifinals, the Warriors fell 5-0, to eventual state champion Midlothian.

Johnson said he hopes that was a good learning lesson for his team.

“The thing about the girls at Midlothian is they took that aggression to the next level,” Johnson said. “They attacked groundstrokes. They attacked the net from every vantage point on the court. That’s what we need to do.”

Johnson said they will miss seniors Abigale Lukens and Alisa van de Crommert, who are both in the top six.

The rest of the team should be back next year, and the Warriors have good reason to have high expectations once again.

“I’m hoping what we did this year inspires them for next year. I have a really good team still returning,” Johnson said. “…A bunch of them are going to camps right now. Three of them are going to the Nike camp at The Citadel. Hopefully that inspires them and then they realize that when we start the season. Then when we reflect back on what happened at Midlothian, it’s like ‘girls this is what we need to do now’ and then they’ll do it.”

Johnson said that he wants the players to be even more aggressive from every part of the court.

If the Warriors continue to get better they will have even more celebrations like the one they had after winning the Conference 21 West tournament title. The final, against Handley, had to be moved to Stonebrook Racquet and Fitness Club in Winchester due to rain. After the match was over the Warriors waited until after Handley had left and then celebrated on the court.

Johnson said the celebration was one of his favorite moments of the past season.

“That was a really cool celebration,” Johnson said. “Just to realize that what we had worked for and what you now believe is what you did.”

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