Warriors win Conference 21 West girls tennis crown

STEPHENS CITY — Sherando knocked off Handley, 5-3, Wednesday to win its second straight girls tennis Conference 21 West championship and improve to a perfect 18-0 on the season.

Sherando had a few bumps in the road but after five hours and three minutes, the Warriors won another conference title.

The Warriors beat Handley twice in the regular season, but it was an even closer match on Wednesday.

“It was one heck’uva match,” Sherando coach Trevor Johnson said. “Handley came to play — bottom line. And they battled til the very end. We were up 4-2 in singles and we had a chance to finish it in singles, but they were pumped. My girls, I don’t think they played their usual doubles, but they pulled it out in the end. They battled and Handley battled. Everyone should be proud of both teams.”

Sherando led 4-2 after singles, but Handley responded with a win at No. 1 doubles. Handley’s Meredith Watts and Josi Sydnor beat Abby Sears and Kathryn Robertson 6-4, 6-4, to cut the team score to 4-3.

Sherando took the first set in both No. 2 and 3 doubles, but dropped the second set in each.

At No. 2 doubles, Sherando’s Sarah-Beth Blaney and Maddy Woolever got an early break of serve against Handley’s Lillian Smith and Emma Capitano and made it hold up.

Blaney survived a pivotal sixth game, which went to deuce five times. On the game point she came up with a service-winner on an under-handed serve for a 4-2 lead.

Blaney and Woolever broke serve again in the next game and held on for a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory to end the match.

“When it got to it we knew we had to win,” Blaney said. “That’s the mentality that we kept throughout the whole thing. We knew we had to win for our team. Instead of thinking about the big picture we talked about going ball-by-ball, point-by-point, play-by-play. We weren’t worried about what was going to happen next game or about the point before. We were concentrated on the moment, tuning everything out. And honestly a huge, huge congratulations to Maddy because she’s a freshman and she’s hanging in there, and she’s a great double partner.”

The Warriors won the first set in five of their six singles matches and looked to be in control of the final.

Handley’s Watts beat Terrain Jennings, 6-0, 6-1 at No. 1 singles in 59 minutes. Jennings was filling in for Sherando sophomore Alexa Venturato, who has been out for part of the season due to injury.

Woolever won her match at No. 6 singles over Catherine Love, 6-0, 6-1 to even the team score at 1-1.

Capitano rallied after losing the first set to force a third set against Meredith Gregg at No. 5 singles.

Still the Warriors looked poised to win in singles as Sears (No. 2 singles), Blaney (No. 3) and Robertson (No. 4) were all within a game or two of winning.

Robertson finished off her match with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Laurel Griffin. However, Handley began to grab some momentum in the other matches.

Blaney’s 5-0 lead in the second set evaporated as she found herself serving at 5-4. The junior was able to regroup and pull out a 6-4, 6-4 win over Smith.

Blaney said when it was close she was motivated to win for her teammates.

“Normally what happens when I’m playing my matches and things get a little tight, a little bit cloudy, I just realize that my mom is waiting for me,” Blaney said. “My family is waiting for me, my team is waiting for me and I’m the one whose going to walk of the court with a victory. And that I really just kept in mind that I’m so grateful for my team and I want to do it for them>

Sears led 4-2 in the second set, but lost two games in a row to Sydnor. Sears held serve for a 5-4 lead and then broke Sydnor in the final game for a 6-3, 6-4 victory.

Capitano took her momentum and ran with it in the third set for a 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 win over Gregg, to cut the team lead to 4-2 and force doubles.

Sherando advanced to the Group 4A state semifinals last year. The Warriors will host a Region 4A West quarterfinal match on May 29. Handley will play in a Region 4A West first round match on May 26.

Blaney said it was a great feeling to win a second straight conference title.

“We earned it,” Blaney said. “So it’s like finally we have something to show for it. We’ve been working so hard all season. We work so, so, so hard and to able to show that. And to have something to say look what we did. We’re so proud of ourselves, proud of each other. It means a lot.”

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