Sherando duo secure a state berth in girls doubles

Kathryn Robertson

ASHBURN — Kathryn Robertson and Abby Sears made history on Wednesday.

The Sherando pair became the first girls tennis players in school history to qualify for the state tournament in doubles. They lost in the Region 4A West individual girls doubles tournament final at Rock Ridge High School, but the top two teams advance to the state tournament.

“It feels great,” Sears said. “I feel like I’ve improved every year and got a little bit further every year, which I’m happy about. …Going to states is just another thing checked off my senior list — my bucket list — I guess of things I wanted to accomplish. And I’m really happy that I can check that off.”

The second-seeded Sherando duo fell in the final to top-seeded Liberty Christian Academy’s Eli Gallier and Mackenzie Marten, 7-6 (3), 6-0.

Robertson and Sears had their chances in the first set. They were the more aggressive pair early in the match and controlled the play at the net. They took an early lead and eventually led 5-3.

Abby Sears

“I think we were fired up,” Sears said of their start. “We really wanted to give a great game and play some great tennis, which we did.”

Gallier, who earlier in the day won the Region 4A West individual singles title, served to stay in the set. A double fault and an error gave the Warriors a set point, but a forehand volley winner by Marten and a Sherando error cut the lead to 5-4.

Sears then had her serve broken as Liberty Christian Academy evened the set at 5-5.

The two teams went into a tiebreaker, where Gallier and Merten took an early lead and held on for the win.

“We were up 5-3, just need to take care of some things,” Sherando coach Trevor Johnson said. “Take care of the serve, take care of some of the ground strokes. Hit the right shot at the right time, put the volleys away. There was just some loose things happening.”

Liberty Christian Academy got the early break of serve, and the Warriors had chances to break right back. Marten was able to hold her serve after a long three-deuce game and saving three break points.

Robertson and Sears said they felt like Gallier and Marten really stepped up their game in the second set.

“I think they just stepped up at the net,” Robertson said. “Before we would just hit it over and it would be kind of close, but they wouldn’t really get it. But then in the second set (Gallier) just was going after everything that came close to her, and she’s really good at putting it away.”

In the semifinals, earlier in the day, Robertson and Sears beat Salem’s Isabel Danstrom and Eliza East, 6-1, 6-2, to gain a Group 4A state tournament berth.

It served as a little bit of redemption for Sears.

“It kind of was a relief,” Sears said. “Last year (Sherando 2016 graduate) Abigale (Lukens) and I didn’t play so well against Salem. So I felt like that was really good to come back and play really well against them this year with Kathryn.”

Gallier and Marten are now 17-0 on the season.

Robertson and Sears began playing doubles together after Sherando’s No. 1 singles player Alexa Venturato suffered an injury. Johnson said he had to pair someone with Sears, and thought Robertson and Sears would be a good pairing.

Sears said they’ve made a lot of strides since they started playing together.

“I feel like we’ve started talking a lot more together,” Sears said. “I feel like at first we didn’t really know what to do with each other, because I’ve never played with her and I’ve always played with Abigale (Lukens). I feel like our communication has started to get a little better. We’re trusting ourselves a little more.”

Sherando will play as a team in the Region 4A West tournament next week, and the top-seeded Warriors will host a quarterfinal match Monday.

The Group 4A state individual doubles tournament will be held in Roanoke on June 9.

“We’re excited and ready to play,” Robertson said of the state tourney. “I think if we can bring the best we have, I think we can win. I think we’ll do OK.”