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Falcons knock off Eagles in boys tennis

Central's Tommy Lam returns a backhand during his doubles match against Clarke County Thursday evening in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Central’s boys tennis team is starting to peak at the right time.

The Falcons knocked off Clarke County, 6-3, on Thursday in Bull Run District action. The win is Central’s second victory in a row and solidifies the Falcons in second place in the district.

The wind was a big factor in the match for both teams.

“It’s so psychological,” Central coach Barry Arey said of the wind. “It just throws your game off, and these guys have done a really good job of pulling it together. ..I think we handled the wind better than they did.”

The Falcons (5-6, 2-1 Bull Run) took a 4-2 lead in singles. Central’s Chase Rimel beat Isaac Knittle, 8-1, at No. 2 singles to put the Falcons up 1-0.

“The wind had a pretty big impact on the match, because it was really difficult to keep it in,” Rimel said. “I think I was able to play in the wind better than him, because we’ve been practicing in the wind all season. All of our practices have been in the wind.”

Central’s Adam Dirting topped John Ulbrich, 8-2, at No, 6 singles, and Clarke County’s Keith Dalton rallied to beat Aram Del Junco, 8-6, at No. 5 singles.

Clarke County’s Alec Lai beat John Pulizzi, 8-1, at No. 3 singles to even the team score at 2-2. Central’s Tommy Lam pulled away late to beat Owen Mason-Hill, 8-3, at No. 1 singles.

Lam led 3-2 against Mason Hill and then won four straight games to take control of the match.

” I felt relaxed during the match,” Lam said. “I was getting my serves in and I felt really good with my forehand. Coach (Arey) told me to relax and calm down and just play tennis, and that’s what I did.”

Central’s Jacob Scibelli pulled out a critical victory at No. 4 singles over Nicholas Cather. The match went back and forth throughout, but Scibelli won the last three games to win 8-5 and give Central a 4-2 lead.

“He is a super athlete, he really is,” Arey said of Scibelli. “He’s skilled. He’s very aggressive, which is good, you need to be that way to be competitive. And he pulled it together there and came through. That win took a lot of pressure off of us in doubles.”

Del Junco and Dirting defeated Dalton and Ulbrich, 8-3 at No. 3 doubles, and Lam and Rimel won, 8-4, at No. 1 doubles to seal the win for the Falcons.

The Falcons lost their top three players from last year’s squad, and have played a very tough schedule this season.

Lam is the team’s only senior, and he jumped from the No. 4 singles player last year to No. 1 this season.

“It feels like a lot of pressure (playing at No. 1) and everyone watching you,” Lam said. “But I feel like I’ve handled it pretty well. And near the end of the season, I’m starting to relax a little and play my game and not worry about everyone else. I’d say that’s been my biggest accomplishment this year.”

Central beat Clarke County, 5-4, earlier this season. The Falcons are a game behind district powerhouse George Mason in the Bull Run District standings and play the Mustangs again on Monday. Unless the Falcons upset George Mason, they will be the No. 2 seed in the Bull Run District tournament in three weeks and host Clarke County for a regional berth.

Lam said that sweeping Clarke County (2-6, 0-3 Bull Run) in the regular season gives the team a boost.

“It feels good to be in second and to know that we beat Clarke twice,” Lam said. “So going into districts that will be a confidence booster knowing that we beat them twice and that we can beat them again.”

With a very young squad, Rimel said that the Falcons have shown a lot of improvement this year and he believes they will keep improving.

“I think we’re only going to get better from here, because we’re really hitting our stride right now,” Rimel said.