WOODSTOCK – Central’s girls tennis program is in the state tournament for the first time in 20 years, and on Friday the team made the most of it.
The Falcons made quick work of Randolph-Henry in a 5-0 victory in the Class 2 state quarterfinals. The Falcons will play either reigning Class 2 state champion Maggie Walker or Bull Run District rival George Mason in the state semifinals on Monday or Tuesday.
“It’s a really big deal,” Central freshman Erika Hutton said. “...It’s a really good feeling to have that you’re going to keep going in states and that we all passed this far. We thought it was going to be a really good match, and it was a really good match. We just all played our best and we went in knowing we were capable of winning, and that really helped.”
The Falcons (16-3) won the quarterfinal match in 58 minutes. They dropped just eight games in the five singles matches that finished against Randolph-Henry (16-2).
Central junior Madison Smith gave the team a 1-0 lead with a 6-0, 6-0, win over Randolph-Henry’s Elizabeth Walker at No. 2 singles in 45 minutes.
“I felt really nervous going in,” Smith said. “There was a lot of people here, and I had kind of this anxiety build up on me. But once I started getting into my match, I started playing more comfortable and I started getting more confident.”
Hutton beat Kiersten Dotten, 6-0, 6-1, at No. 6 singles in 49 minutes to give Central a 2-0 edge.
Central senior Lander Barbour (No. 3 singles) and junior Mackenzie Ryman (No. 4 singles) finished their matches within a minute of each other to extend the team lead to 4-0. Barbour beat Kaley Moon, 6-0, 6-1, and Ryman beat Mckenzie Sharpe 6-2, 6-1.
“I feel like that’s the best I’ve ever played,” Barbour said. “I came out nervous but I just did what (Central) coach (Matt Smith) told us to do and just took a deep breath and kept moving my feet, and the turnout was good.”
Ryman said she was motivated to try to get her match over quickly so she could get out of the heat.
“I feel like I played really well,” Ryman said. “My shots – I tried to keep them in the corners and angle them so that the points are quicker because I didn’t want to be out there any longer than I had to.”
Central senior Anna Truban clinched the state quarterfinal win with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Pearl Sandridge at No. 5 singles in 58 minutes.
“I was really nervous, and it showed when I was playing,” Truban said. “I tried my best, and it worked. I think we were pretty evenly matched but I was really, really nervous. I wasn’t playing my best, but I wasn’t playing terrible. I just had to keep trying and keep saying ‘you got it, you got it. It’s OK. Just take it one game at a time.’”
Central sophomore Michelle Kim won the first set, 6-2, over Grace Algeier at No. 1 singles and was leading in the second set when play was halted due to Central clinching the team victory. Kim will play in the Class 2 individual state singles semifinals on Thursday at Radford University. Kim was a state semifinalist last year.
Matt Smith said he was proud of the way the players handled themselves in their first-ever state tournament appearance.
“I could tell they were all a little nervous at first but they came through,” he said. “We had a big crowd, a little more pomp and circumstance than we usually have. ...I’m just super excited for them. I hope they’re enjoying every point of this.”
The Falcons have been playing some of their best tennis lately. Central knocked off George Mason last week in the Region 2B final, after losing to the Mustangs twice earlier in the year. That win has the Falcons even more confident in the state tourney.
“I think that’s what’s keeping us up and on our feet because we know we can do it.,” Barbour said of the George Mason win. “Even though we’re playing good teams, we just have a confidence that we know we can do it.”
George Mason and Maggie Walker played late Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals. Maggie Walker has won back-to-back state titles. Ryman said she feels like the team will be prepared for whoever they have to play.
“It’s amazing, I’m really excited,” Ryman said. “We play Maggie Walker or George Mason next. Either one of those is going to be a challenge but I’m ready and I think we’re ready.”