Colonels' duo ends surprising run in semis

By Tommy Keeler Jr. - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

RADFORD -- It was almost hard to tell if Headley Wilson had won or lost in the Group AA individual girls doubles state semifinals on Friday. After the match was over, the James Wood junior had a big smile on her face.

Even though Wilson and Tarah Wampler lost 6-3, 6-3 to Jamestown's Whitney Simerlein and Leah Walter, Wilson realized how amazing the Colonels' run had been.

When the season started, James Wood had only three players show up for practice. A few days later Wampler, a freshman, and some others showed up. Wampler had never played tennis before the season, but still managed to make it to the state semifinals in doubles.

"We didn't anticipate being here so this is an accomplishment in itself, to be on these courts playing right now," Wilson said. "Our heads are still held high.

"We came up short a little bit today, but you know what, you have to look at all the other great experiences that we had. I mean Tarah, the experience of being here, it means the world." The James Wood pair started off slowly and couldn't recover in the first set. In the second set, they were able to keep things close at the start.

"Second set we were like, 'OK, let's just go out and play. Let's just have fun like we always want to do,'" Wilson said. "Even though we still came up short, we played our hardest and that's all you can ask for."

The Jamestown pair broke for a 4-2 lead in the second set and then held for 5-2 advantage.

Wilson was able to hold serve and put the pressure on the Jamestown pair to close it out. The pair went up 40-love to gain three match points.

However, Wilson and Wampler weren't going down without a fight. An overhead smash from Wilson helped pull the game back to deuce.

"I think that game just shows that we're willing to fight to the very end," Wilson said. "We're just going to keep fighting and swinging. I always tell Tarah, 'Keep swinging,' because that's all you can do."

Two James Wood errors sealed the win for Jamestown, but there's no question Wilson and Wampler had a lot to be proud of.

"I never expected to get this far," Wampler said. "It's disappointing that we lost, but we had an awesome season. It was a lot of fun."

Wilson won the last two doubles state titles with James Wood graduate Kari Pope, who was at the match supporting the Colonels.

Wampler has steadily improved throughout the season.

"[At the beginning of the season] she was just fluffing the ball everywhere," James Wood coach Rob Haskiell said. "And now she's hitting smashes. Her serve was a little off today, but she's hitting much better with her serve. She's moving so much better.

"It shows a lot of maturity on her part -- being so young, and willing to put the time and effort in to bring her game up where it needed to be to help get Headley back here again."

Wilson said she's already excited about working toward next season. Despite this season coming to an end, Wilson said it was a memorable one for her.

"It was a great season," Wilson said. "I'm just so happy that I got to play with Tarah and to see how she's evolved throughout the season. I think that's the main thing. To see as a player, how somebody can go from such little experience and have the talent to be able to come out here and play at this level. It's just a great feeling to be able to see that."

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