Sherando’s Maddy Woolever returns a groundstroke from Liberty’s Maria Cruz Caballero during their match last year in Stephens City. Woolever helped lead Sherando to the state tournament two out of the last three seasons.

Amelia Sacco and Maddy Woolever have been a big part of Sherando’s rise as a girls tennis program the last four years.

The pair were on the team each of the last four seasons, with Woolever being one of the top players over the last two seasons. Sherando coach Trevor Johnson said they were good leaders for the team.

“Both of them have been playing all four years and they both led by example,” Johnson said. “Both of them are a great pair of girls.”

Woolever has been a standout for all four years. She lost to only three players, for a total of five singles losses during her first three seasons with the Warriors. Last year with top singles player and 2019 Sherando graduate Alexa Venturato out due to injury, Woolever stepped up and went 8-0 at No. 1 singles.

It was a high school career that almost didn’t happen for Woolever, who during her freshman year was planning on focusing on volleyball. Woolever said she had played tennis recreationally up until middle school, but had no plans to play in high school. However, Johnson had her in his English class and talked her into giving tennis a try.

“I had totally written off tennis my eighth grade year, just because I figured I was going to start playing volleyball,” Woolever said. “I was in travel (volleyball). Tennis was going to become irrelevant. Having Johnson as an English teacher and him really pushing me to come out to play really showed how great of a coach he is, and how much he cares about each of his players individually. Because even after that I got to see how well he worked with other girls and how much he wanted all of us to succeed.

“I don’t know if I can ever thank him enough for pushing me to come out. And even when it seemed like I wasn’t going to come out or I wasn’t sure he kept on trying to get me to do it, because he knew that would be a good decision for me. I’m extremely thankful that he didn’t give up on trying to get me to come out.”

Woolever was part of two state tournament teams in her three years. She said those teams were part of her top memories of her four years on the squad.

“Freshman year when we went to states and we were state runners-up that year – that’s something that I’ll never forget,” she said. “We were such a tight-knit team that year from traveling together, playing so much, practicing more since we went so far. Another big memory I had was probably last year, because we went to states and we traveled for the state quarterfinals. We played in Blacksburg and we all got to travel together again too. We had an overnight trip. So we made a lot of memories on that trip as well.”

Woolever went undefeated at No. 5 her freshman year and moved up to No. 3 her sophomore season. She said last year was a memorable year for her playing at No. 1 singles, where she was slated to be again this year, for eight matches and being named the team Most Valuable Player.

She said one of the things that makes the Warriors and the sport of tennis special is that they can work on their games individually in the offseason and then come together in the spring to have success as a team.

“It seems like it’s been like that for the past couple years for Sherando’s team where everyone works on the outside of the season,” Woolever said. “We all want to be the best. We all want to be better. But we still have a really good sense of team, because we all have that common goal of winning the match or going to states or something like that.”

Woolever said that her most memorable tennis match came last year in the Region 4C final against Riverside. The Warriors lost, 5-2, as a team but Woolever pulled out a 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 win at No. 2 singles. Woolever said the match lasted almost 3 hours and 30 minutes.

“It took a lot more patience from myself,” she said. “I had to change a lot of my strategies, because the girl I was playing kept doing the same. So that was one of my toughest games mentally and physically, because I had to keep re-thinking my strategies almost every single point, just to try and get around her and try and get a win.”

Woolever said she’s disappointed that the team didn’t get to play this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the reasons for her sadness is that she would have had the chance to play with her sister, Emily, who was a freshman on the team.

“My sister and I are honestly best friends, which to a lot of people that’s a surprise,” Maddy Woolever said. “A lot of siblings don’t get along, but we’ve never had a bad relationship. we don’t really fight or anything. ...She ‘s also a great player. She stopped playing tennis when she was younger a little bit earlier than I did. But I feel like she is going to continue on in tennis and maybe she’ll end up going to it full time as I did, or she might continue to split her time between tennis and volleyball. I would love to to see her do both either way because I know she’s really passionate about volleyball.

“But I hope I get to see her out there (on the tennis court) next year a little bit.”

Sacco has been around the bottom part of the starting lineup for several years and saw action last season as a starter.

“Amelia Sacco got better and better and better,” Johnson said. “She improved. She was always on the cusp of being in the top six. This year she would have been fighting for that sixth position. There were like three of them who were six, seven and eight who were all pretty equal. She would always encourage all the other players all the time.”

Johnson said that Sacco was always working hard on her game.

“Amelia was always trying to improve everything that she could,” Johnson said. “She did not necessarily have the most powerful serve, but she tried to be consistent with it. She was actually trying to start to put some slice on the second serve. She was trying to be consistent overall. That was what her goal was.”

Sacco, who is planning to attend Virginia Military Institute this fall, is the Sherando senior class president.

Woolever, one of the Sherando student council co-presidents, plans to attend James Madison University in the fall. She said that she has thought about playing club tennis at JMU. Woolever also attended Virginia Governor’s School for three years and balanced that with all of her extracurricular activities.

Woolever said that one of the things that tennis has taught her is to always have a game plan.

“One of the biggest things that I learned probably is how important patience is,” she said. “Also, at least to me how important getting together a game plan is, which that also transfers to my school career with trying to manage my Vista Governors School sophomore year, trying to manage that college workload with everything. Playing tennis made me realize how important it is to really take a step back and figure out your course of action, figure out what you should do before you actually do something.”

– Contact Tommy Keeler Jr. at