Having run into Abingdon several times before in state tournament play, Western Albemarle girls tennis knew it was going to have a challenge on its hands in the Class 3 state semifinals Thursday.
“We know Abingdon is a good team, they’re always tough and we know they know how to play,” said Western coach Ellen Markowitz. “It’s really about competing at this point and fighting through tough matches.”
The Warriors competed and fought through it on a sweltering day, sweeping Abingdon 5-0 to earn a spot in the Class 3 championship Thursday at 9 a.m. at Virginia Tech.
“We’re just really happy everyone came out for the short season and is really putting in their all, we’ve had rapid fire matches, 2-3 a week for weeks,” said Western senior Sarah Warren. “Everyone coming out and really doing their best means a lot to us as seniors.”
Warren got the Warriors going with a 6-0, 6-0 win at No. 4 singles and Madison Farmer also helped stake Western to an early lead with a 6-0, 6-0 win at No. 5.
Western’s No. 1 Austin Winslow — who has a busy week ahead competing in singles and doubles state championships as well as the team title match — dropped a rare set to Lauren Wimmer from Abingdon to start their battle. That put some of the onus on the rest of the Western lineup to make sure they delivered while Winslow went to work trying to climb back in it.
“We’re super strong top to bottom and a lot of the season our 1s and 2s have not been challenged, Austin and Grace (Nolasco) have been on a good run,” Markowitz said. “Today, however, they got big challenges.”
Nolasco came through with a straight set win and with Alison Selverstone closing out at No. 3 singles, Western held a 4-0 lead. Winslow bounced back from the first set loss and was battling it out in a 4-3 second set when senior Maya Kelly finished off the match with a 6-1, 6-3 victory at No. 6 singles. The Warriors had to fight through a humid, hot day to clinch the win and Kelly went outside making sure she was hydrated to push through that.
“A lot for me is mental — you have to remind yourself what you’re fighting for,” Kelly said.
Kelly was fighting for a chance at a state championship and her clincher gave the Warriors that opportunity, which is particularly special a year after spring sports lost an entire year.
“We’re just really excited that we even got to have a season,” Kelly said. “Getting to this point, we’re all just really grateful and excited to go to states.”
The Warriors will face the winner of Tabb and Maggie Walker’s state semifinal match Tuesday in the the championship.