Warriors building on last year’s success

Sherando's Kathryn Robertson returns a shot during a match on Wednesday in Stephens City. The Warriors are off to a 7-0 start this season. Rich Cooley/Daily

STEPHENS CITY — Sherando’s girls tennis team had a record-breaking season last year, and this year the Warriors have picked up right where they left off.

Sherando is off to its best start in program history at 7-0. The Warriors have four players back from last year’s top six, which advanced to the Group 4A state semifinals.

“It’s been really great,” Sherando No. 1 singles player Alexa Venturato said on Wednesday afternoon. “I think last year we had a really strong team. This year I think we’re even stronger.”

Sherando returns seniors Abby Sears and Meredith Gregg, as well as sophomore Venturato and junior Sarah Blaney. Junior Kathryn Robertson was a regular starter for doubles and is in the top six singles this season.

Depth was a big key for Sherando last year, and it may be even better this season.

Sherando's Abby Sears returns a shot during a match Wednesday in Stephens City. Rich Cooley/Daily

Venturato had to miss Wednesday’s match due to an injury, but Sherando coach Trevor Johnson switched his lineup around and the team didn’t miss a beat. Sherando defeated North Hagerstown, Maryland, 8-1. The Warriors split two regular season meetings with North Hagerstown last season, but this year swept the Hubs.

Johnson said he’s noticed the players have more confidence this season than they did last year.

“I think they believe in themselves more and they push themselves,” Johnson said. “In preseason we’re doing the challenge matches — any of my top 4 could be my No. 1 (singles player). Then 4 and 5 are battling right there. Then 6 through 10, they’re all battling for No. 6, and those groups, those pairings, its very equal and they’re fighting for those spots. It’s kind of fun to watch.”

The players said that a big key to the team’s success has come from how close they are with each other on and off the court.

“We’ve just been really working together and having a lot of team bonding to try to make sure that whenever we needed each other we’re always there,” Blaney said. “That motivation and that encouragement is really what brings us together as a team and what will make us strive.”

“I think being a team that gets along together helps us, because we all cheer for each other, and that really fuels you when you’re on the court,” Robertson said.

Venturato said that she has been working on her game throughout the offseason. She said she trains year-round at Stonebrook Racquet and Fitness Club in Winchester, and she feels like her game has really improved in the last year.

“My mental game is really important, because if you get down on yourself it can affect the match more than your play can,” Venturato said. “I think I’ve definitely worked on that, and I definitely think our team is really strong with that.”

Sherando has won its matches by a combined score of 52-4 this season. The Warriors will begin Northwestern District play next week.

Sears said the team is excited to face a tough district schedule, including rival Handley.

“I think we’re ready,” Sears said. “We’ve been preparing for it. I think we’ve each prepared ourselves mentally and physically and we’re just geared up for it. We’re excited to play them and see how the results come out.”

Last year the Warriors set a school record with 17 victories. They came up just short in a 5-4 loss to E.C. Glass in the Region 4A West final, and fell 5-0 to eventual state champion Midlothian in the state semifinals.

Venturato said that last year’s experience should help the team this year and motivate them.

“We would definitely like to return to where we were, and kind of avenge ourselves against Midlothian,” Venturato said. “Because that was not our best. We can definitely improve on that.”

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