Blaney delivers in clutch moments for Warriors

Sherando's Sarah-Beth Blaney returns a backhand shot against Jamestown's Emily Sharp during Group 4A state semifinals Monday. Blaney has helped lead the Warriors to the state finals this season, picking up some key wins at No. 3 singles. Rich Cooley/Daily

STEPHENS CITY — When Sherando’s girls tennis team needs a point, there’s usually one player they can count on when the match is on the line — Sarah-Beth Blaney.

The junior plays at No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles for the Warriors, and throughout her career she has delivered time and again in big situations.

“Sarah-Beth is a fighter — flat out simple,” Sherando coach Trevor Johnson said. “She will fight down to the last point. And she will never ever give up no matter how bad it is. And that’s an admirable attribute in an athlete.”

In the Group 4A state semifinals, it was Blaney who clinched the winning point surviving an almost three-hour match against Jamestown.

In the Region 4A West quarterfinals against Loudoun County, Blaney lost in singles but then responded in a big way in doubles to help the team win. She and doubles partner Maddy Woolever lost only one game in helping lead the Warriors to the victory.

Blaney said she enjoys playing in the close matches for her team.

“I enjoy all aspects of tennis, but when you’re in a tight match you really got to dig,” Blaney said. “And I’m really good at digging deep inside myself to find whatever it is that I need to be successful. I’ve always done it.”

She said that the biggest key to winning close matches is playing with heart and playing for her teammates.

“I’ve been told that I have a big heart, and that I’m determined,” Blaney said. ” And I can’t agree with that more. Really when I think about myself and what sets me apart from other people it’s the determination. And when I’m in a close match it’s just that I know that I have to do it for my team. And that is where my heart comes in and knowing they need me and that they’re counting on me. And that I have to do every single thing that I can to be there for them.”

Blaney said she started playing tennis when she was 8. She said that she played soccer and did ballet, but playing tennis just felt like the right sport for her.

She said she took lessons from Matt Rosner, who teaches tennis for the Frederick County Parks and Recreation Department, and has been hooked on the game ever since.

“When I was little and I was playing tennis I finally felt like I fit,” Blaney said. “Because I never really felt like I fit in ballet, never really felt like I fit in soccer. Everyone had been playing longer than me or was bigger than me. I felt like tennis was a place where I could be myself. I love the environment of the people, and I was really fortunate to have Matt Rosner as a coach because he always encouraged me. He believed in me. He was the first person that believed in me and told me that I could.”

Now Blaney is the one doing the coaching. She said she teaches clinics for  Frederick County Parks and Recreation.

She said it’s a lot of fun to work with younger kids, and try to help them with their games.

“I adore it. I love kids. I love my job so much,” Blaney said. “It’s amazing the amount of impact that you can give to one person just by being kind and by being a role model to them.”

Blaney said she has some good role models as well.

Her brother Matt was a standout boys tennis player at Sherando. He graduated in 2014. Blaney also said her mom has been a big influence on her.

“(Matt) has been there for me in any and every single way that he possibly could have,” Blaney said. “He has coached me at tennis, and he has really influenced me to be a great person and a role model to me since I was little. And also my mom has had a ginormous impact on me, and they encourage me to do what I love — and what I love is tennis.”

Blaney played at No. 5 singles as a freshman and moved up a spot in the lineup each year.

She said she feels like the biggest improvement she’s made has been confidence.

Blaney said she also loves the strategic part of the game and trying to figure out ways to beat her opponents.

The Warriors (22-0) will play Hanover in the Group 4A state championship on Saturday and Blaney said she was very proud of what the team has accomplished.

She said that she knows her teammates will give it everything they have just like she will.

“They’re going to fight just like I’m going to fight,” Blaney said. “We’re going to give it everything that we have and if we lose we still gave it everything that we could. We have the heart. We have the determination. We have the motivation, and we have a wonderful coach that’s going to lead us the best way he can. And if we lose we still win, because we’re us — we’re united.”