Athlete of the Week: Sherando’s Sears caps off week with multiple regional berths

Abby Sears

STEPHENS CITY — Abby Sears was exhausted, but holding up a trophy at the end of the week made it all worthwhile.

The Sherando girls tennis player played 10 matches last week, and advanced to the regional tournament as part of the team, and in the individual singles and doubles. She, along with doubles partner Kathryn Robertson, won the Conference 21 West individual doubles title.

“I didn’t know I was going to play that many matches,” Sears said. “Then I added it up and I was kind of surprised it was that many matches. I looked back and realized how well I did play. I think I surprised myself a lot, because I thought exhaustion was going to be my worst enemy and it really wasn’t. I just pushed through and played a lot better than I thought I could.”

Sears’ week started off with back-to-back team matches. Sherando beat James Wood in the Conference 21 West tournament semifinals on May 16.

The next day Sears and her teammates pulled out a thrilling 5-3 victory over Handley in the final, to win their second straight conference title.

Sears, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Athlete of the Week for the week of May 15-21, then played six more matches over the next two days in the Conference 21 West individual tournament held at Handley.

On May 18, Sears, who was the No. 3 seed in both tournaments, played two singles matches and one doubles match. She won her first singles match against Woodgrove, 6-0, 6-0.

“I think I played really well,” Sears said. “It was a very quick match. It kind of got my confidence up a little bit.”

She and Robertson then teamed up to defeat Woodgrove to advance to the doubles tournament semifinals.

After that match Sears had to play Handley’s Meredith Watts, who was the defending singles champion. Sears said she had never beaten Watts before, but she won the match, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5) to advance to the tournament final and secure a singles regional berth.

“She’s awesome on and off the court,” Sears said. “She’s a great person, and I think that playing her really got my confidence up in a lot of ways. She gave me a good game. She was always on my toes. She always gave me a good shot, never got down on herself, which is what really made it a great match.”

Sears lost in the singles final to Millbrook’s Cecilia Cress, who hasn’t lost a match this season, 6-2, 6-0.

However, Sears and Robertson bounced back by winning the doubles title. In the semifinals, they defeated Millbrook’s doubles team.

The Sherando pair lost the first set, 6-1, and Sherando coach Trevor Johnson said he gave them a little pep talk.

“I said you guys are playing terrible,” Johnson said of the conversation. I said you’re not moving, you’re not communicating with each other. I said I want to see some bounce. I want to see some talk. I want to see you jump on the second set, because if you don’t I’m not coming back to talk to you and they responded — they really did.”

Sears and Robertson rebounded to win the match 1-6, 6-2, 6-4. They then knocked off Handley’s Meredith Watts and Josie Sydnor in three sets, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, in the final.

It was the second straight Conference 21 West doubles title for Sears after winning last year with Abigale Lukens, who graduated in 2016.

“It was a great feeling, because I now have the title for two years in a row,” Sears said. “To do it with Kathryn is another great thing because it also shows how far she’s come and also how far we’ve come as a team.”

Robertson, a junior, said it’s been great playing with Sears this season.

“She’s been really great,” Robertson said of Sears. “She’s been helping me through playing at one (doubles). Teaching me different things along the way, and it’s been really helpful to have someone who’s more experienced than me. I think we really compliment each other, our games really complement each other. We’re both really aggressive at the net and we both like to play the net.”

Sears said she’s worked hard in the offseason to get faster, and feels like her footwork has really improved over the last year as well as her mental game.

Sears has played at No. 2 singles most of the season. However, Sherando’s No. 1 singles player Alexa Venturato has missed half of the season due to an injury. Sears filled in for Venturato in the individual singles tournament and didn’t miss a beat for the Warriors.

Sears fell in the Region 4A singles tournament on Tuesday, falling 6-2, 6-3, to Freedom’s Isha Bhatia in the quarterfinals.

In doubles, she and Robertson advanced to the Group 4A state tournament and finished as Region 4A West runners-up.

Sherando (18-0) will be the top seed in the Region 4A West team tournament next week. The Warriors will host a quarterfinal match on Monday at 3 p.m. They will play the winner of Friday’s first round match between Freedom and Jefferson Forest.

The Warriors advanced to the Group 4A state semifinals last year, and Sears said that is still a big goal for the team this year.

“I think that really set the expectations for us last year, and is just pushing us,” Sears said. “That’s really what is driving us this year. We all really hope we get to go to states again this year.”