Lady Chargers fall in state semifinals
by Larry S. Chowning
—MHS Coach Pete Shepherd
The Middlesex High School girls tennis team ran into some tough competition at the State Group A Tournament last week and was defeated in the semifinals of the team, singles, and doubles action.
The Lady Chargers’ number one singles player, Jessica Anderson, was defeated 6-3, 6-2, in the singles semifinals at Radford University.
Anderson, who was previously undefeated in singles play, lost to unbeaten Bland County High School freshman Grace Sarver, who went on to win the state championship.
“Jessica won the first game of the first set,” said coach Pete Shepherd. “She continued to do well but Sarver started hitting some good winners and pulled away to a 6-3 first set win. The second set seemed to find Jessica making more unforced errors than normal to give Sarver the match.
“She (Sarver) had a personal coach with her and her father is a tennis pro. She probably has had a tennis racket in her hand since she was one year old,” said Shepherd. “Jessica could have played better, and on another day could have beaten her.”
Sarver is coached by her sister who was a tennis star at Bland High School 10 years ago.
On Friday, rain moved some of the tournament from Radford to indoor courts at Virginia Tech. By the time the afternoon rain had slacked off, Middlesex played in the semifinals of the team competition on Radford’s outdoor courts.
“We played against Wilson Memorial from the Staunton area,” said Shepherd. “Our ladies did not fare well against this very strong team. Jessica lost her first set 6-1 and was into her second set when the match was stopped due to the other five players losing two sets to their opponents.”
The Middlesex losses included: Melissa Baltrusaitis, 6-1, 6-1; Stephanie Hutton, 6-1, 6-0; Amanda Blake, 6-0, 6-0; Amanda Pruett, 6-0, 6-1; and Mindy Hurley, 6-1, 6-0.
“The coach from Wilson told me that two of his players work at an indoor tennis center and that the remainder took lessons there weekly and played in leagues year around,” said Shepherd.
Wilson Memorial went on to win the state title.
Anderson and Baltrusaitis played their semifinal doubles match on a Virginia Tech indoor court. They lost 6-3, 6-2 to Tori Brown and Morgan Taylor, the Region C champions from Gate City High School.
“They were playing the number-one ranked doubles team in the state from Gate City,” said Shepherd. “Jessica and Melissa stayed even with them for the first few games before losing 6-3. The second set they struggled some and lost 6-2.”
Shepherd complimented his team on its effort and demeanor. “All the Lady Chargers were gracious in losing and were the epitome of true sportsmen,” he said.
“It was such a great opportunity and privilege to have played in the state competition,” said Coach Shepherd. “It was a lesson for these young ladies in that they now see, to compete at this level, playing tennis takes a year-around commitment.
“I am very grateful and privileged to have been their coach for this ride to glory. Middlesex High School and Middlesex County should be very, very proud of these young ladies in the way they represented the school, the county and themselves.”