Wilson's rally falls short in final

June 10, 2011
By Robert Niedzwiecki
       

RADFORD- A few seconds after the Group AA girls' singles final, Hidden Valley senior Kristin Harter accidentally broke part of a courtside bench when she stood on it to climb over a waist-high fence at the Radford University Tennis Complex.

Clearly, that bench isn't nearly as tough and sturdy as James Wood senior Headley Wilson.

Harter defeated Wilson in Thursday's final 6-3, 6-4, but she had to withstand an impressive rally from Wilson to do so. Trailing 4-0 in the second set, Wilson won four straight games before Harter rebounded to take the last two and claim her second state singles title. Harter also won in 2009.

"I came out and fought as hard as I could," said Wilson, who beat York's Wiktoria Plawska 6-1, 6-2 in Thursday's semifinals to become the first girl in school history to play in a state tennis singles final. "I think that's how I've played every match.

"I'm really proud that I come out here every time and give my best effort. There's always an opportunity for me to come back each and every game. I wasn't able to pull it out today, but I'm so proud of myself for all that I've accomplished this season." For a moment, it looked like Wilson (21-1) - the Region II and Northwestern District champion - might add the biggest championship of all to her ledger.

Up 4-0 midway through the second set, Harter was in clear control of the match. Though she finished with only seven winners (nine fewer than Wilson's 16), she kept her mistakes to a minimum and continuously made it difficult for Wilson to hit accurate and dangerous shots.

But two points into the fifth game of the second set, Wilson hit an overhead winner after getting back two tough shots, both of which made her grunt, to make it 0-30. Wilson and Harter battled through two deuces before a double fault gave Wilson the game.

"Winning that game was really a momentum shift for me," Wilson said.

On a windy, 90-plus degree day that saw both players struggle with their serve (nine double faults each), Wilson won the last two points in the next game to hold serve for the first time since the first game of the match.

Those two points started a stretch in which Wilson won 12 of 13 points to make it 4-4, 15-30 in the ninth game.

It was then that Harter - driven all year to make up for her state final loss to Handley's Sarah Moomau in 2010 - amped up her game and forced three errors out of Wilson. The last point came when Wilson returned Harter's serve into the net.

Harter, who had double-faulted three straight times to end her previous service game, said winning that game was critical.

"I needed to turn the momentum back into my way, because I knew if she went up 5-4, I would have definitely struggled," said Harter, who won four of the first five games en route to winning the first set. "I really needed that game."

It gave her the confidence to pull out the next game in improbable fashion. Wilson took a 40-0 lead, but Harter's pressure forced errors and got the match to deuce after a lob from Wilson went long. Following a second deuce in which Harter saved another game point, Wilson tossed in consecutive double faults to end the match after one hour and 20 minutes.

"She kept right on me," said Wilson, who credited Harter for adapting to her style. "She really kept pushing, pushing and pushing. She never let there be an opening for me, and you just have to commend her for that. Only good players are able to do that, and she's a good player."

Wilson's not too shabby either, and her ability to fight back impressed Harter, a four-time state finalist.

"Kudos to her," Harter said. "She played unbelievably for those four games to tie it up at 4-all."

For Wilson, it's been an unbelievable career. Thursday marked her fourth appearance in Radford for the state tournament, though it was her first appearance in singles. She won the Group AA doubles titles with Kari Pope in 2008 and 2009 and was a doubles semifinalist with Tarah Wampler in 2010.

Those feats are why she carried a prominent smile on her face during the award ceremony after she finished hugging the numerous family members and friends who made the trip to support her. She couldn't be prouder that she's made so much history at James Wood.

"I've made so many leaps and bounds for our school," Wilson said. "Getting tennis on the map here at James Wood ... I don't think anyone knew who we were the first time [Pope] and I came here. Just being able to say James Wood has some good tennis players is an honor for me."

Wilson won her semifinal in 59 minutes, recording 17 winners to Plawska's four.

- Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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