STEPHENS CITY -- Sherando coach Garland Williams was looking to do something a little different so when the boys tennis job came open last summer, he jumped at the opportunity.
Williams has coached boys basketball at the school since it opened in 1993. He has coached track and field and football, but he said he was excited to try something different.
“It was just a change of pace,” Williams said. “I’ve did a lot of sports, football, basketball, and track and I just wanted to do another sport to help the school out. And to be around a different group of people and it was a pleasure to be around these young men. And to get out of your comfort zone.”
Williams, who is also still the head boys basketball coach at Sherando, led the Warriors to a successful season. Sherando went 9-9 and finished third in the Class 4 Northwestern District.
Williams, The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2019 Boys Tennis Coach of the Year, said one of the things he did was to implement more conditioning than what the team was used to under former coach Steve Jennings.
One of the other big things Williams wanted from his team was to be more competitive with each other and in general.
“Tennis is a nice recreational and sociable sport, but team-wise we come to be competitive and be aggressive and quick,” Williams said. “At the end, we’ll shake hands and then be sociable.”
Williams said he did have some experience coaching Sherando’s boys tennis team over the past five or six seasons, as he filled in whenever Jennings wasn’t able to be there. Still, it was his first time as full-time tennis coach and he said he was pleasantly surprised at how much he enjoyed it.
Williams said he was also open to listening to players if they had ideas for different types of drills they could do in practice and things of that nature. He said he also got advice from Sherando girls tennis coach Trevor Johnson and Jason Robertson, father of Sherando tennis player Keith Robertson.
The Warriors showed plenty of progression throughout the season. Sherando only lost to three teams this season, including eventual Class 4 state champion Handley.
In the opening match of the season, Sherando lost 8-1 to Woodgrove. When the two teams met again on April 9, they lost 5-4. The biggest turnaround of the season happened in the Class 4 Northwestern District tournament semifinals.
The Warriors lost 6-3 four times in the regular season to Frederick County rival Millbrook, but in the tournament semifinals they put up a strong fight. Sherando was even with Millbrook 3-3 after singles and the team match came down to one doubles match with a Region 4C berth at stake.
“That was pretty much a major accomplishment,” Williams said. “I don’t know if Millbrook took us lightly, but we did not take it lightly. We got some wins in some spots that we didn’t get in the regular season that got us to 3-3. We were competitive even in the doubles.”
The Warriors should return half of their starting lineup next year, including No. 1 player Parker Gregg, and Keith Robertson and Joe Venturato. Williams said he feels good about where the program is at right now and what it can accomplish next year.
“We’re on the right track as far as hopefully being a regional team next season,” Williams said. “That is a goal -- no doubt. We feel good and hopefully with offseason and recruiting some more players that will help build the fire. And we’ll improve on some things we need to do, and we’ll be very competitive hopefully again next year.”