Girls’ Tennis Outlook

Posted: March 21, 2015
By ROBERT NIEDZWIECKI
The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — The Handley girls’ tennis team has lost some pretty talented players from its 2014 team.

But a program that has won 20 of the last 21 Northwestern District titles and advanced to the state tournament seven of the last nine years has shown it does a pretty good job of handling these situations.

“There’s a lot of best friends on this team, and it’s just great to see how they can battle and try as hard as they can to beat each other in practice, then hug it out afterwards,” Handley coach Martha Johnson said. “These girls push each other, and the girls who are stepping into bigger roles just feel like it’s their turn to get the job done.”

During last year’s 14-4 campaign, the Judges were perfect in the Northwestern District, and in the postseason they won the Conference 23 and 4A North Region tournaments before seeing their season come to an end against Glen Allen in the Group 4A state semifinals.

That team was spearheaded by Group 4A state singles champion Kathryn Bock, who is now at Embry-Riddle University, which is ranked second in the nation for NAIA schools. Bock has posted an 8-7 singles record while playing at the No. 5 and 6 singles positions, and she has an 8-3 record at No. 2 doubles for Embry-Riddle.

Last year’s team also featured No. 3 singles player Leland Damron, who teamed with Bock to make the Group 4A state doubles semifinals. The No. 2 doubles team of Eileen Wilkerson (No. 6 singles) and Emily Smith has also graduated.

But in bringing back three of their top five singles players — and adding a couple of freshmen who have stepped immediately into some prime spots in Handley’s lineup — the cupboard is hardly bare for the Judges.

Handley’s returning starters include seniors Jamie Miller (12-8 and a 4A North Region singles quarterfinalist last year), who is currently playing at the No. 2 position she played at last year and Maddy Skedsvold (11-4), who is currently at No. 3 singles. Both are also playing No. 1 doubles together. Junior Olivia Truban, who was held out of Handley’s first two matches with an injury but is healthy now, is another returning starter.

Among Handley’s newcomers are new No. 1 singles player Meredith Watts, the younger sister of boys’ tennis standout Carter Watts, and freshman Maggie Wise, who has played No. 4 singles in Handley’s first two matches. Those two have been paired at No. 2 doubles so far.

The Judges have had a strong start to the 2015 campaign. They defeated James Wood — which returns three of its top four singles players from the team that advanced to the 4A North Region quarterfinals last year — 9-0, and the Judges gutted out a 5-4 win against Tuscarora when the No. 3 doubles team of Josie Sydnor and Olivia Andrews pulled out an 8-6 decision.

Despite the loss to the Judges, the Colonels should also be strong based on what they have back and last year’s strong postseason run.

Though three-year No. 1 singles player Fae Schweitzer has graduated, senior Ashley Hillyard certainly appears ready to take on that role in strong fashion, as she led Handley’s Watts by a couple games late before falling 10-8 on Tuesday. Hillyard’s younger sister Megan is currently playing No. 2 singles, and James Wood also features returning starters Katie Schott and Allie Cooper.

Though Sherando did not advance to regionals, they posted the same 5-3 district mark as the Colonels (they split their two regular season meetings) and the Warriors lost to Conference 21 champion Dominion by the same 5-1 score that Wood did in the conference tournament.

The Warriors did not graduate any seniors, and Sherando coach Trevor Johnson said veterans Abigale Lukens (currently No. 1 singles), Abigail Sears, Olivia Scott and Alisa van de Crommert were all clamoring for the No. 1 spot in the preseason.

Millbrook is coming off a winless season, but the Pioneers will look to improve this year behind the duo of junior Annie Cebryzynski and Kyle Buza, who return to the No. 1 and No. 2 singles positions and No. 1 doubles spot. Both went unbeaten against Skyline and in Millbrook’s scrimmage with Rock Ridge.

Going forward, the Pioneers will also benefit from the presence of junior Ally White, who was out of town for the team’s first two matches and will slide into the No. 3 singles position.

Clarke County will look to improve on last year’s 6-9 season behind a group of five seniors that are led by their top two singles players Erika Hutchinson and Katy Kosiorek, who also play No. 1 doubles.

Handley

Coach: Martha Johnson, 3rd year.

Last year: 14-4 (8-0 Northwestern District); Northwestern District

This year: 2-0 (1-0 district).

Key losses: Kathryn Bock, Leland Damron, Eileen Wilkerson, Emily Smith.

Top returning players: Jamie Miller, Sr.; Maddy Skedsvold, Sr.; Olivia Truban, Jr; Josie Sydnor, So.; Emma Foster, Sr.; Olivia Andrews, Jr.

Key newcomers: Meredith Watts, Fr.; Maggie Wise, Fr.

Johnson’s outlook: “We hadn’t played on the Handley courts until Monday because of the weather, and Tuesday we were out in the cold and wind and I thought we showed how much we want it by fighting through it against James Wood. Meredith Watts really battled against Ashley Hillyard. Meredith’s very athletic, has good court sense, and a strong all-around game. She’s fun to watch.”

Next match: Tuesday vs. Skyline, 4:30 p.m.

James Wood

Coach: Sharon Sweet, 5th year.

Last year: 8-8 (5-3 Northwestern District); lost to Fauquier in 4A North Region quarterfinals.

This year: 1-1 (0-1 district).

Key loss: Fae Schweitzer.

Top returning players: Ashley Hillyard, Sr.; Katie Schott, Sr.; Allie Cooper, Sr.

Key newcomers (to top six): Megan Hillyard, So; Abby Macknight, Jr.; Fernanda Franco, Sr.

Sweet’s outlook: “Fae is a huge loss for us because she was such a strong player and leader for the team. Ashley Hillyard is moving into the No. 1 position, and she’s a great athlete who will provide us with leadership. I’m excited to see what she can do. Megan Hillyard wasn’t in our top six last year, but she’s made a huge jump in her level of play and earned that No. 2 spot. Making regionals last year was a huge motivation for us. We didn’t play everyone in the conference last year like we are this year. Hopefully we can put ourselves in a good position to get back to regionals.”

Next match: Monday vs. Dominion, 5 p.m.

Sherando

Coach: Trevor Johnson, 6th year.

Last year: 10-8 (5-3 Northwestern District); lost to Dominion in Conference 21 semifinals.

This year: 1-0.

Key losses: None mentioned.

Top returning players: Abigale Lukens, Jr.; Abigail Sears, So.; Olivia Scott, Sr.; Alisa van de Crommert, Jr.; Maria Acosta, Sr.; Meredith Gregg, So.

Key newcomer: Sarah Blaney, Fr.

Johnson’s outlook: “The girls played a lot at Winchester Country Club and Stonebrook to prepare for this season, and I’m starting to see more of what I’m trying to teach them show up in their play. Hopefully we can improve on what we did last year.”

Next match: Today at Turner Ashby, 11 a.m.

Millbrook

Coach: Dawnette Jones, 2nd year.

Last year: 0-16 (0-8 Northwestern District); lost to Dominion in Conference 21 quarterfinals.

This year: 0-2 (0-1 district).

Key loss: Kelsey Holdway.

Top returning players: Annie Cebryzynski, Jr.; Kyle Buza, So,; Ally White, Jr,; Tiffany Javins Fender, Jr.; Bethany Melvin, Jr.

Key newcomers: Sarah Woolverton, Jr.; Shanna Marin-Pierce, Fr.; Emily Woodard, Fr.; Sarah Renner, Fr.

Jones’ outlook: “We improved a lot from the beginning of last year to the end of last year. Annie and Kyle were winning a lot more games than they were, and the bottom of the ladder really developed. And now I think we’re starting off where we finished last year. With Ally White out, we had to move everyone up a spot in our first two matches, so hopefully once we get everyone comfortable in their roles we’ll have a chance to win some matches.”

Next match: Monday at Park View, 4:30 p.m.

Clarke County

Coach: Ted Schulhof, 8th year.

Last year: 6-9 (0-6 Bull Run District).

This year: 0-1.

Key losses: Callie Elliston, Sam Smith.

Top returning players: Erika Hutchinson, Sr,; Katy Kosiorek, Sr.; Syenna Graham, Sr.; Kristen George, Sr.; Melissa Forbes, Sr.

Key newcomers: Chloe Peyton, Jr.; Jasmine Haynes, Jr.; Trisha Vergara, Jr.; Kayla Shaw, Jr.; Zoe Viza, So.

Schulhof’s outlook: “We lost a couple horses in Callie Elliston and Sam Smith, but we’ve got five seniors we can count on for the top five spots, so we just need to figure out six singles and three doubles. The seniors are doing a good job setting the tone. It’s a good bunch of kids, and we’re just going to focus on improving as the season goes on, and having fun while we’re playing.”

Next match: Monday vs. Jefferson (W.Va.), 4 p.m.

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

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