Warriors advance to first-ever girls tennis state final

Sherando's Abby Sears returns a volley against Jamestown's Lauren Montgomery during Monday's Group 4A state semifinals held at Stonebrook Club in Winchester. The Warriors won the match, 5-0, to advance to the Group 4A state finals on Saturday. Rich Cooley/Daily

WINCHESTER — Sherando’s girls tennis team continues to reach new heights.

The Warriors swept past Jamestown, 5-0, on Monday in the Group 4A state semifinals to advance to the state championship match for the first time in school history. The match was held indoors at Stonebrook Club due to the weather.

“It’s unbelievable. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” Sherando senior Meredith Gregg said. “It feels great, especially since I’m a senior this year. So this is my last year on the team. So it feels great to go as far as we can with it.”

They played on three courts at a time and Sherando didn’t waste much time in taking the lead.

Sherando’s Alexa Venturato beat Jamestown’s Alisha Kohli, 6-1, 6-1 in 57 minutes at No. 1 singles. It was only Venturato’s third match back after missing over a month of the season with a hip injury.

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

Sherando’s Abby Sears extended the lead to 2-0 with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Lauren Montgomery in one-hour and 17 minutes at No. 2 singles.

“The first set was really good,” Sears said. “And the second set she really played some better tennis, and I just tried to keep up and I did. And she played some great tennis, and I’m happy how I played.”

At No. 4 singles, Sherando’s Kathryn Robertson rallied in both sets for a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Katie Rowland for a 3-0 edge.

Robertson lost the first two games of the match, before winning six of the next seven games. In the second set she trailed 4-2, but won the last four games of the match.

“I think I definitely started hitting more consistent,” Robertson said of her comeback. “I think my serves started going in, which helped me a lot which gives me confidence to hit other shots well. Once I start being consistent then I can attack more and I’m more confident in my attacking.”

Less than a minute after Robertson’s match concluded, Gregg finished off her match, 6-2, 6-3 over Casey Schmidt at No. 5 singles for a 4-0 team lead.

“I feel like I played well,” Gregg said. “I feel like my groundstrokes were pretty consistent. I’ve been trying to focus on that, especially the last couple matches. She hit some really great strokes, and she was a really good player.”

Sherando’s Sarah-Beth Blaney capped off the state semifinal victory with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Emily Sharp at No. 3 singles in a two-hour 51-minute match.

Blaney trailed early in the first set at 5-3, but won the last four games to take the opening set.

“I knew that I had to,” Blaney said of the rally. “I knew that it’s a mental game. Once you lose the first set it’s very hard to come back. And I was not going to let myself get there. I knew that I was better than that. So I did everything I could.”

After the second set there was a 10-minute break and Blaney said that she knew she had to do it for the team.

“I told myself that ‘you can do this,’ and ‘you were meant to do this’ — and I did,” Blaney said. “I knew I had to win for my team, my coaches, my mom, my brother. And I knew I had to do whatever it took. So I gave absolutely everything in me to pull this one out for my team.”

Sherando coach Trevor Johnson said he was very proud of how his team played.

“Jamestown girls were stroking the ball,” Johnson said. “My girls were very patient and they were smart and they were aggressive. They got the unforced errors down. …All of them up and down (the lineup) just played very well.”

The Warriors (22-0), who lost in the state semifinals last year, will play either Hanover or Handley in the state final on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Roanoke College.

Sherando defeated Handley four times this season, while Hanover beat Jamestown by a similar 5-0 score in the regional final.

“We’re super excited to play and represent our school,” Sears said. “We beat our goal, which was to make it to finals this year. And I feel like everyone has a bit of a relief, because we’re going to state finals, and just excitement to play some more tennis and play a little bit more with this team.”