FRONT ROYAL – Warren County and Skyline’s girls tennis teams had not been in any tightly contested matches all season, but Thursday’s clash between the cross-town rivals could not have been any closer.
The Wildcats were able to pull out a tiebreaker in the final match to win, 5-4, over the Hawks at Skyline in Class 3 Northwestern District action.
“It was a great challenge,” Warren County coach Glenn Ferst said. “I think we both have a lot of new players on our teams, but they came out and they fought hard. And I’m proud of every one of them – both sides actually. Both sides did very good for a new team.”
With the match tied 4-4, it came down to No. 2 doubles. Warren County’s Leslie Richards and Tracy Vo rallied to defeat Kylie Taylor and Ciara Short, 9-8 (3).
Richards and Vo trailed 7-5 but won three of the next four games to force a tiebreaker. They built an early 4-2 lead on a forehand winner by Vo and held on to win the match.
“The pressure was on,” Ferst said. “I give the girls credit for sticking to it. I think they had the upper hand when they were able to come back. They were a game behind and then they picked up a little bit of wind when they tied it up. So I think that gave them enough encouragement to go for the whole thing.”
The match was tied 3-3 after doubles. At No. 1 doubles, Warren County’s Chelsea Ruffner and Aimee Rich beat Fallon O’Malley and Megan Mills, 8-1, to give the Wildcats a 4-3 lead.
Things didn’t look good for Skyline (1-11, 1-1 Class 3 Northwestern) at No. 3 doubles as Kylie Dacey and Rudie Shotton trailed, 5-2, early in the match. However, the Skyline pair won the last six games to defeat Autumn Polk and Katie Glascock, 8-5.
In singles, the Wildcats (2-6, 2-0 Class 3 Northwestern) took an early lead as Ruffner beat O’Malley (8-1) and Rich beat Taylor (8-0) at No. 1 and 2 respectively.
Dacey knocked off Richards, 8-3, at No. 3 singles to cut the lead to 2-1. Mills evened the team score to 2-2, with an 8-3 victory over Glascock, at No. 6 singles.
The last two singles matches were extremely close. At No. 5 singles, Short held a 7-4 edge over Polk, but things turned around quickly. Polk managed to even the match and force a tiebreaker. Short recovered and dominated the tiebreaker, 7-0.
“It was definitely Ciara’s first-ever tiebreaker,” Skyline coach John Natalie said. “So it was good to see Ciara pull out that tiebreaker in singles. She’s been a bright spot all year for someone who’s never played competitive singles and only once played competitive doubles before this year. So it’s really new for her to play under the lights when people are watching.”
At No. 4 singles, Shotton led Vo, 7-4, before things turned completely around. Vo rallied to win the last five games to win the match, 9-7, and even the team score at 3-3.
“Between the singles and doubles, Tracy Vo played 33 games today,” Ferst said. “She gave it her all. So we’re pretty proud of her.”
Ruffner, a senior, is the only returning starter from last year for either team. Both teams have struggled this season playing mostly Class 4 schools.
Natalie said Thursday’s match was a good experience for his team.
“All of my players are new to the top six this year and their matches have all been lopsided one way or the other this season,” he said. “So they haven’t had that many matches that close where one point is going to decide it when it gets to the end of the match. So it was a new situation for them and they’ll be better for having played in a close match.”
The two teams play again on May 3 at Warren County. The Wildcats are now 2-0 in the Class 3 Northwestern District but haven’t played Brentsville yet.
Ferst said the match against Skyline was just what his team needed.
“I think we’re off to a good start (in the district), and I think (the Skyline match) taught us something about ourselves as well,” he said.