Girls' tennis outlook: Chase for Northwestern District title may be crowded at top

For the last 15 years, the Class 4 Northwestern District girls’ tennis title has resided at either Sherando or Handley high schools.

The Warriors (18-1) were unbeaten in district play as they captured their third consecutive title last season, but it didn’t come easy.

And now Millbrook, featuring two-time district singles champion Kinsey Knox, figures to be right in the fight as well for the second consecutive season.

Sherando’s march to the district regular-season and tournament titles wasn’t dominating, but Trevor Johnson’s squad managed to find a way to pull out wins against Handley and Millbrook, including a 5-3, nearly five-hour marathon triumph over the Judges in the tournament title match.

The Warriors return half of their starting singles lineup from last season, including No. 1 Michaela Koch, who finished runner-up in the district singles to Knox. Morgan Sutphin (No. 3) and Emmy Woolever (No. 4) also return to the lineup. Koch and Sutphin advanced to the district doubles semifinals.

Sherando’s lone loss came against Loudoun Valley in the Region 4C semifinals.

Handley (11-8) fell twice to Millbrook in the regular season, but edged the Pioneers 5-4 in the district semifinals to clinch a Region 4C semifinal spot. They also lost 5-4 during the regular season to Sherando.

The squad, now with Steph Plotts leading the program with former head coach Martha Johnson as a co-coach, returns its top two players from last season — No. 1 Sarina Parikh, a district singles semifinalist, and No. 2 Grace Meehan, a district doubles runner-up with Parikh.

The Judges also bring back No. 4 Sophia McAllister and No. 5 Page Brubaker.

Handley and Sherando were set to square off Tuesday in their first district matches.

Like Handley, Millbrook (14-3) returns the bulk of its starting lineup including Knox, who has committed to University of Virginia College at Wise. Knox was unbeaten in district singles play last season and also teamed with the graduated Abby Dalton to win the district doubles crown and finish as the runner-up doubles team in Region 4C.

Jenny Russell’s squad also returns No. 2 Abby Townes, No. 4 Peyton Cotterell and No. 6 Kiley Carter. Nora Lewis also saw action last season.

James Wood (7-8) is looking to challenge those three schools. Last season’s No. 1 Bianca Linares, No. 4 Sydney Delawder and No. 6 Julia Taylor return for Olivia Scott’s squad.

Clarke County (6-12) lost its top two players, but still hopes to be in the mix in the Bull Run District, which had a number of teams graduate their top players.

No. 3 Lily Hayton, No. 4 Kaylynn Chapman-Browne and No. 5 Ana Gonzalez return for Ted Schulhof’s squad.

The following is a capsule look at the area teams with information provided by the coaches:


Coach: Trevor Johnson, 13th season

Last year: 18-1, Class 4 Northwestern District regular-season and tournament champion, Region 4C semifinalist

Key losses: Lea Blevins, Jeana Costello, Virani Bhagat, Katherine Sumner, Grace Dudley

Key returners: Michaela Koch (Sr.); Morgan Sutphin (Sr.), Emmy Woolever (Sr.); Lia Gannon (Jr.); Kendall Clark (Sr.); Hailey Reynolds (Jr.), Hanna Cadd (Jr.).

Key newcomers: Gabriella Koch (Fr.); Katherine Freilich (Fr.); Addyson Kelly (So.); Nya Patten (Fr.), Madison Cowden (So.).

Johnson’s outlook: “I expect to improve as the season progresses and to improve on last year’s results. Everyone has been practicing and playing to improve, especially the players 6-12 as they battle to complete the bottom portion of the roster.”

First match: Today at Handley


Coach: Steph Plotts, first season

Last year: 11-8, Class 4 Northwestern District 4 runner-up, Region 4C semifinalist

Key losses: Anne Marie Larson, Peyton Jones

Key returners: Page Brubaker (Sr.); Sophia McAllister (Sr.); Grace Meehan (Sr.); Sarina Parikh (Sr.); Tess McAllister (Jr.); Julia O’Conner (Jr.); Ellie Bessette (So.); Lexy Plotts (So.).

Key newcomers: Lindsay Pifer (Sr.).

Plotts’ outlook: “We expect to compete this season. We have a group of very strong seniors who have excellent leadership qualities and a nice crop of underclassmen ready to step in. We will be a strong team this year with a lot of depth. We are excited about the possibilities. The girls have all worked hard in the off-season and are off to a great start. … Our district is always strong in tennis and we don’t expect this year to be any different. The girls will be prepared and ready to battle in every match.”

First match: Today vs. Sherando


Coach: Jenny Russell

Last year: 14-3

Key losses: Amanda Dalton, Lauren Durbin

Key returners: Kinsey Knox (Sr.); Abby Townes (Sr.); Peyton Cotterell (Jr.); Kiley Carter (Jr.); Nora Lewis (Sr.); Sarah Dalton (So.).

Key newcomers: None listed

Russell’s outlook: “The local teams have been very competitive the past few years with a lot of solid matchups. I’m looking forward to seeing our seniors and returning players get the opportunity to play girls/teams that they have been playing against for years now. … I’m looking for the team to be competitive and have fun this season. I expect for the team to finish the season strong within our district.”

First match: Friday at Fauquier

James Wood

Coach: Olivia Scott, third season

Last year: 7-8

Key losses: Grace Allen

Key returners: Bianca Linares (Sr.); Julia Taylor (Jr.); Sydney Delawder (So.); Lilly Black (So.); Grace Owens (Sr.).

Key newcomers: Violet Quodala (Fr.); Lily Dodson (So.); Zoe Karen (Fr.); Evelyn Groesbeck (So.).

Scott’s outlook: “I hope to strengthen the team as a whole and allow them to grow individually. I want to see them push themselves in matches like they do in practice and play to their full potential. Julia Taylor continues to impress me this season with her hard work and dedication. Newcomer Violet Quodala blew me away with her skills as a freshman. I can’t wait to see her improvement over the next few seasons. Each girl on my team brings a different element to the table. I am proud of all their improvement over the past few weeks. … Overall, I’d like them to win more than they lose, but at the end of the day if they can walk off that court and know they played their best I will be happy.”

Next match: Friday at Kettle Run

Clarke County

Coach: Ted Schulhof, 15th season

Key losses: Ryleigh Webster; Claire Snyder

Key returnees: Lily Hayton (So.); Kaylynn Chapman-Browne (Jr.); Ana Gonzalez (Sr.); Mary V. Simmons (Jr.)

Key newcomers: Isabella Concha (Fr.); Jenna Stallsworth (Jr.); Kylie Prazinko (Jr.); Gabriela Ticas (Jr.); Isabelle Martin (Fr.), Riley Duncan (Jr.).

Schulhof’s outlook: “For the veteran top four, [my expectations are] to continue to improve their game, develop some reliable weapons, grow in knowledge and appreciation of the sport. For the six newcomers, it’s to learn tennis, have fun, be part of a team and appreciate the opportunity to participate. ... The season will be challenging. It is hard to fill the top two positions vacated by graduates Webster and Snyder, yet I have been impressed with the improved play of current No. 1 Lily Hayton. We do have some experience mid-lineup with Kaylynn, Ana, and Mary at No.’s 2, 3, and 4. Starting the season, ninth-grader Isabella Concha lands at No. 5, while junior Jenna Stallsworth rounds out the Top 6. As far as District play, most schools lost multiple players to graduation. This could mean some surprising results over the next two months. It should be fun!”

First match: Wednesday at Jefferson (W.Va.)

— Contact Walt Moody at
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