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Posted June 6, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Handley survives long wait, secures spot in Group AA finals against rival Spotswood

By Tommy Keeler Jr. -- tkeeler@nvdaily.com

BLACKSBURG -- Many of Handley's players sat and stood in the doorway of the indoor courts at the Burleson Tennis Center and watched as Lane Stickley tried to close out her match. The players sang, talked about wanting to eat and anxiously cheered on Stickley and fellow teammate Taryn Burke.

Sitting and waiting was the name of the game for the Judges all day on Friday. Many of the players waited five hours just to take to the court. When Stickley hit a volley winner to give Handley a 5-0 win over Jamestown in the Group AA state semifinals, the wait was finally over and the Judges could finally take care of their hunger pangs.

"I think that was even more stressful [than the wait at the beginning]," Handley senior Mykenzie Garrett said. "It was really nerve-wracking waiting for Lane and Taryn to win that final point for us.

"I'm very hungry. I'm so starving right now. I think we might be going to [Buffalo Wild Wings]. It depends on what coach [Terry Ewell] says. We'll probably just order pizza in our hotel. We're supposed to be having a dance party in our rooms."

One more win and the Judges will have another reason to party with their third straight Group AA state title. Handley will play rival Spotswood in the Group AA final at 9 a.m. at Radford University.

The semifinals were moved to Virginia Tech's indoor courts due to rain. The Virginia High School League divided up the matches between Group A and Group AA with only three courts being used at a time per classification. The Judges were the second match up in Group AA, but the first match of the day between Jamestown and Western Albemarle's boys lasted almost six hours. All the Judges could do was wait, wait and wait some more.

"My stomach was just trembling the whole time," Handley junior Katie Gordon said. "My stomach was churning. I almost felt sick. I thought to myself, 'I hope I can do this.'"

Sarah Moomau was the first player on the court, almost four hours after the Judges had arrived. The teams didn't have any extra warm-up, except the 10 minutes before the match began. Moomau said the lack of an extended warm-up hurt her in the first set.

The junior was still able to pull out a 6-3, 6-2 win over Jamestown's Kelly Little at No. 1 singles.

"I was on and off most of the day," Moomau said. "Overall, I'm proud of myself, because I did what I had to do."

By the time Moomau had finished her match, Elizabeth Gardiner and Gordon had started their matches. They also started off slow, but each shook off some early nerves to post identical 6-2, 6-2 wins at No. 2 and 3 singles.

Garrett had a little more trouble getting over her nerves. Having to sit around for so long and wait made the senior even more nervous for her match, and she struggled in the first set against Jamestown's Natalie Donvito. At 3-3, there was controversy regarding the score of the match after the pair forgot to switch sides after the usual two games. It was decided that the score was 3-3, but the extra break may have been just what Garrett needed.

"I don't really know what happened. I just kind of went with it," Garrett said. "[Donvito] knew what we did wrong. So I said, 'OK, that's fine.'

"I guess having a little bit of breather time helped my nerves calm down a little bit."

After falling behind 4-3, she won the last three games of the set and cruised to a 6-4, 6-1 win over Donvito at No. 4 singles.

That left Stickley and Burke out on the court to try and close out the team match. Stickley cruised through the first, but was broken for 4-4 in the second.

"As soon as I started playing I knew I can do it and I was confident the whole time," Stickley said. "I just tried to hit it to her backhand and keep my eye on the prize."

Once Stickley won her match, the players ran onto the court to celebrate. After a quick celebration, the players realized that Moomau and Gardiner were on the other set of courts, having started a doubles match, and ran to join them for a second celebration.

The Judges (21-0) are used to celebrating, having won 66 consecutive matches, but one more state title would be especially sweet for the seniors.

"It's just great," Stickley said before the Judges knew who their final opponent would be. "It's like the icing on the cake. It's my senior year. Whoever we'd be playing I'll be happy with, but we'd like to beat Spotswood."

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