Girls’ Tennis Preview

Posted: March 19, 2014

By ROBERT NIEDZWIECKI

WINCHESTER — As evidenced by their enthusiastic reaction when she stopped by at a recent practice while on break from college, the Handley girls’ tennis team would love it if Jessie Nolan were still around.

But while the Judges will miss the player who compiled a 79-9 singles record over four years and back-to-back Winchester Star Girls’ Tennis Player of the Year awards over the last two, bringing back six returning starters (five singles, one doubles) and adding a couple of strong freshmen means Handley’s usually lofty goals haven’t changed.

“We’ve got depth,” said Handley second-year head coach Martha Johnson, who will be the Judges’ sole head coach after sharing duties with Trevor Scott last year (Scott is now an assistant with the Shenandoah University men’s tennis team). “We’ve got a good, solid top eight, so I think we can rotate people in at our five and six singles spots.

“I think we have a really good chance to get back to where we were last year and make another state trip.”

Handley — which went 15-6 last year — advanced to the state tournament for the first time since 2010 a year ago, falling to eventual state champion Jamestown in the Group AA quarterfinals. Jamestown could be waiting in the state tournament again this year, because the Eagles are in the Group 4A South Region.

This year marks the first season in the Virginia High School League’s new six-classification system, and postseason competition will begin with conference tournaments. The top two teams in each conference will move on to their respective region tournaments, and the top two teams in each region will move on to the state final four.

Handley is in Conference 23 of the Group 4A North with Charlottesville, Fluvanna, Louisa County, Amherst County and Harrisonburg.

If the Judges are to advance to the state tournament, they may have to go through some traditionally strong programs in the North Region in Fauquier and 2012 Group AA state champion E.C. Glass.

In senior Kathryn Bock, the Judges do boast one of the top players in the state — Bock and Nolan teamed up to post a perfect record in winning two consecutive Group AA state doubles titles in 2012 and 2013.

Johnson said Bock (10-1 in singles) — who struggled with biceps tendonitis last year — is fully healthy now and she thinks she’s more than ready to take on the No. 1 singles position and challenge for a state berth in singles. Bock will also team with Leland Damron in doubles, and Emily Smith and Eileen Wilkerson will form another doubles team after being partnered together last year. Junior Maddy Skedsvold (9-8 in singles last year) and Jamie Miller (12-7) return after playing at the No. 3 and No. 4 singles positions, respectively, last year.

James Wood, Millbrook and Sherando will be grouped in Conference 21 of the Group 4A North Region along with Dominion, Heritage, Loudoun County, Park View and Woodgrove.

The Colonels will be led by a solid one-two punch in senior Fae Schweitzer (No. 1 singles) and junior Ashley Hillyard (No. 2), the Winchester Star Volleyball Player of the Year. The duo teamed up to make the Region II tournament in doubles last year. James Wood returns four of its top six players.

A Sherando team that did not feature any seniors a year ago (and won’t have any this year either) figures to improve on last year’s 3-14 mark, and Warriors coach Trevor Johnson has three players competing for the top spot — freshman Abigail Sears, junior Olivia Scott and sophomore Abigale Lukens.

Millbrook has a new head coach in Dawnette Jones and and five of the eight players are new, including four who have never played tennis before this year.

Jones — who has played with Stonebrook’s 3.0 women’s tennis team and is the wife of former Sherando girls’ coach Steve Jones, who led the program during its first four years of existence — is looking to sophomore holdover Annie Cebrzynksi and freshman Kyle Buza to be the team’s top two players. Senior Kelsey Holdway — the only player on the team who isn’t a sophomore or freshmen — will back them.

Clarke County seventh-year head coach Ted Schulhof hopes his team can improve on last year’s 4-11 campaign, with a mix of seven returners — led by junior Callie Elliston — and seven newcomers.

Blocked by the likes of George Mason (the defending Group A state champion) in the past, the Eagles will also get a crack at the postseason this year because of the new six-classification system. Clarke County is in Conference 35 of the Group 2A East Region along with George Mason, Stonewall Jackson and Page County.

The following is a glance at each area team:

Handley

Coach: Martha Johnson, 2nd year.

Last year: 15-6 (8-0 Northwestern District); district regular season and tournament champions; lost to Jamestown in Group AA quarterfinals.

Key loss: Jessie Nolan

Top returning players: Kathryn Bock, Sr., Maddy Skedsvold, Jr., Jamie Miller, Sr., Leland Damron, Sr., Emily Smith, Sr., Eileen Wilkerson, Sr.

Key newcomers: Josie Sydnor, Fr., Kat O’Keeffe, Fr.

Johnson’s outlook: “Because of all the seniors we have we feel like we have a lot of people who are leading the team, which is great. The team looks great so far. They’re hitting with a lot of pop, and players have added shots to their bag. You can see they really want to succeed because of how hard they worked in the offseason.”

Opener: Thursday at Tuscarora

James Wood

Coach: Sharon Sweet, 4th year

Last year: 5-11 (3-5 Northwestern District); lost to Skyline in district semifinals

Key losses: Kelsey Nicely, Kaitlyn Vadell.

Top returning players: Fae Schweitzer, Sr., Ashley Hillyard, Jr., Katie Schott, Jr., Alaina Cooper, Jr.

Key newcomer: Megan Hillyard, Fr.

Sweet’s outlook: “We’re excited that four of our top six back, and we’ve got a large junior class (six players) to go with one senior, and they’re providing a good experience for our sophomores and freshmen. I think Fae and Ashley are motivated and confident as a doubles team. They know they can be successful and they’re excited to see what they can do this year.”

Opener: Today vs. George Mason

Millbrook

Coach: Dawnette Jones, 1st year

Last year: 4-14 (2-6 Northwestern District); lost to Handley in district semifinals

Key losses: Jenny Beasley, Saelyn Kim, Kylie Nordin, Ifeanyi Coates.

Top returning players: Annie Cebrzynski, So., Kelsey Holdway, Sr., Tiffany Javins Fender, So.

Key newcomers: Kyle Buza, Fr., Fatima Gallegos, So., Bethany Melvin, So., Ally White, So., Heather Yonley, So.

Jones’ outlook: “We’re very young, but I see signs of potential. The girls who have never played before are definitely excited to learn and have shown great effort when we have been able to take the court.”

Opener: Thursday vs. Broadway

Sherando

Coach: Trevor Johnson, 5th year

Last year: 3-14 (1-7 Northwestern District); lost to Millbrook in district play-in

Key losses: None mentioned.

Top returning players: Olivia Scott, Jr., Abigale Lukens, So., Alisa van de Crommert, So., Maria Acosta, Jr., Jiyon Kim, Jr.

Key newcomers: Abigail Sears, Fr., Meredith Gregg, Fr.

Johnson’s outlook: “I think the team is better than they were at this point last year. We’re still pretty young with three juniors and the rest sophomores and freshmen. Abigail Sears is very competitive and been playing since she was 8. She pulled a muscle and had to sit out a week, so she can’t be No. 1 yet, but she wants to be No. 1 this year. Olivia Scott and Abigale Lukens are pushing for No. 1 too, so it’s good to see that competition within the team.”

Opener: Today at Musselman (W.Va.)

Clarke County

Coach: Ted Scholhof, 7th year

Last year: 4-11 (0-4 Bull Run District)

Key losses: Virginia Shake, Gabbrielle Ammons.

Top returning players: Callie Elliston, Jr., Samantha Smith, Sr., Erika Hutchinson, Jr., Katy Kosiorek, Jr., Kristen George, Jr., Syenna Graham, Sr., Olivia Lanham, Sr.

Key newcomers: Natalia Vaananen, Sr., Fani Jaya, Sr., Dania Al-Thawabeh, So.

Schulhof’s outlook: I have high hopes for the season. We’re certainly looking to improve on last year’s record and we hope we can do better against [Bull Run District rivals] George Mason and Central. The team is working hard and has a great attitude, and you can’t ask for anything more from them. I think Callie Elliston has a great upside as just a second-year player, and Samantha and Erika have shown a real commitment and will be in our top three.”

Opener: Today vs. Stonewall Jackson

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. on Twitter @WinStarSports1

 

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