Girls' Tennis Preview

By WALT MOODY THE WINCHESTER STAR | The Winchester Star

Sherando and Handley were two of the top four Class 4 girls’ tennis teams in the state last season.

The Warriors (22-1) set school records and defeated the Judges four times on the way to the state finals, where they fell 5-1 against Hanover.

But it seems the power may have shifted back to the Judges this season.

Last Monday, Handley rolled to an 8-1 triumph against Sherando.

Handley is led by Meredith Watts, playing in her fourth consecutive season as the Judges’ No. 1 in singles and doubles. Watts, a two-time Winchester Star Player of the Year, is joined in the singles lineup by returnees Lillian Smith (No. 2), Catherine Love (No. 4) and Meredith Larsen (No. 5).

The Judges (currently 2-0) also get some help from new/old faces. Freshman Ava Lewis is playing at No. 3 singles and Maggie Wise, who has concentrated on volleyball since playing No. 5 as a freshman, is back at No. 6.

Sherando (2-1) returns three of its Top 6 players from last season’s outstanding squad.

Junior Alexa Venturato, who overcame an injury last season, returns at No. 1 singles. Kathryn Robertson takes a big jump to No. 2 in singles (she was No. 4 last season) and she will play with Venturato at No. 1 doubles. Last season, Robertson teamed with Abigail Sears to advance to the state doubles semifinals.

Maddie Woolever, who did not lose a match at No. 6 singles last season, also makes a big jump to No. 3 singles. Kaitlyn Duncan and freshmen Emily Loy and Addy Gannon round out the singles lineup.

Millbrook (1-0) by far has the most dominant player returning and could join the team battle. Senior Cecilia Cress was not challenged in Conference 21 West play. Cress became the first player in school history to advance to the state semifinals and she was the Winchester Star Player of the Year.

The Pioneers have several experienced players in the singles lineup with seniors Shanna Marin-Pierce, Christina Gutilla and Zoe Ackerman in positions No. 2 through No. 4. Audrey Hoffman, who played doubles last season, and Olivia Escalante round out the lineup.

James Wood (2-0) has a solid base returning, though longtime No. 1 Megan Hillyard graduated. Lily Kimble, Taylin Crosen and Morgan Burner occupy the top singles spots. Katelyn Harris, Carley Pennington and Savannah Keller follow. Newcomer Lauren Klubertanz will see action in doubles.

The area schools will also face new competition from new Northwestern District opponents Fauquier, Kettle Run and Liberty.

A young Clarke County team took its lumps last season, but the Eagles may begin to reap the benefit of the playing experience.

Clarke County (0-1) returns its entire lineup from a season ago and none of those players are seniors. Anne Herndon, Aaliyah McFarland, Maria Vinson, Katie Crandall, Barbara Fairbanks and Julia Callender start the season in that order in singles.

Here are capsule looks at each team with information provided by the area coaches:

Handley

Coach: Martha Johnson, sixth year

Last season: 14-8

Key Losses: Josie Sydnor, Laurel Griffin, Anna Griffin, Emma Capitano

Top Returning Players: Meredith Watts, Sr.; Lillian Smith, Jr.; Catherine Love, Sr.; Meredith Larsen, So.

Top Newcomers: Maggie Wise, Sr.; Saloni Sabatino, Sr.; Ava Lewis, Fr.; Samantha Thomas, Fr.

Johnson’s outlook: “We have two players that are returning to the team after being absent which speaks to the integrity of the relationships we have built on our team. Maggie Wise missed two seasons and Saloni Sabatino missed last year. We are glad they are back to play for their senior years. All of the seniors and two committed freshmen add fuel to our roster. The new district pairings provide us with the chance to grow new rivalries and we look forward to getting better every match. Our goal is high and this group is ready to work hard to get there.”

Next match: Tuesday at Fauquier

Sherando

Coach: Trevor Johnson, ninth year

Last year: 22-1

Key losses: Abigail Sears, Meredith Gregg, Terrian Jennings, Darby Garner

Top returning players: Alexa Venturato, Jr.; Kathryn Robertson, Sr.; Maddie Woolever, So.; Kaitlyn Duncan, Sr.

Top newcomers: Emily Loy Fr.; Addy Gannon, Fr.

Johnson’s outlook: “After having the best season in school history, the Lady Warriors will need to reload and rebuild. With practice, determination, and aggressive play, the Lady Warriors will fight to compete in a competitive conference.”

Next match: Today vs. Liberty

Millbrook

Coach: Dawnette Jones, fifth year

Last year: 13-5

Key losses: Kyle Buza, Abigail Taylor

Top returning players: Cecilia Cress, Sr.; Shanna Marin-Pierce, Sr.; Christina Gutilla, Sr.; Zoe Ackerman, Sr.; Audrey Hoffman, So.; Olivia Escalante, Jr.

Top newcomers: Tiffany Cheung, Fr.; Nicole Doepper, Sr.

 

Jones’ outlook: “We are hoping to start the season off solid with lots of experience in the lineup. Cecilia Cress is looking even stronger than last season and is working to earn her place back at the state tournament. We are still looking at the best fit for her doubles partner after losing Kyle to graduation. Shanna Marin-Pierce, Christina Gutilla, Zoe Ackerman, and Audrey Hoffman have all returned to the top spots and have individually strengthened at least one area of their game. Olivia Escalante has moved up and into the lineup at sixth. They are a well bonded team with great communication and work ethic.”

Next match: Tuesday at Skyline

James Wood

Coach: Sharon Sweet, eighth year

Last year: 9-7

Key losses: Megan Hillyard and Carlee Gosline

Top returning players: Lily Kimble, Jr.; Taylin Crosen, Jr.; Morgan Burner, Jr.; Katelyn Harris, Jr.; Carley Pennington, Sr.; Savannah Keller, So.

Top newcomers: Lauren Klubertanz, Fr.

Sweet’s outlook: “We are returning four of the Top 6 which will allow for consistency and experience in our top numbers. We will have some returning members of the team filling out the remainder of the Top 6. I have a great group of girls that are determined to do their best and be as competitive as possible in this new district set-up. I am looking forward to seeing what this year’s team can accomplish.”

Next match: Tuesday at Clarke County

Clarke County

Coach: Ted Schulhof, 11th year

Last year: 2-15

Key losses: None

Top returning players: Anne Herndon, Jr.; Aaliyah McFarland, Jr.; Maria Vinson, Jr.; Katie Crandall, So.; Barbara Fairbanks, So.; Julia Callender, So.; Reagan Johnson, So.

Top newcomers : Hannah-Mae Bryson, Sr.; Laura Duerson, Sr.; (both played on team as sophomores).

Schulhof’s outlook: “With all of last year’s varsity team returning, combined with positive senior leadership and energy, we are anticipating a much improved season. In addition to being real scholar-athletes, these girls want to win. Even with limited practice opportunities, we are way beyond where we were last year at this time. Our goal is to win the district. In order to do that, we have to beat George Mason and Central.”

Next match: Today vs. Skyline

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

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