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When a seemingly certain state championship for her Jamestown High tennis team suddenly became uncertain, Julia Clark felt less like a dominant player and more like a freshman.
“My hands were shaking like this the whole time,” the ninth-grader/Region A singles champion said, her fingers trembling.
After seeing their second-set lead erased, Clark and sophomore Lauren Elliott steadied themselves and finished with a flourish on a steamy Thursday at Huntington Park. Their 6-2, 7-6 (7-0) victory at No. 1 doubles gave the Eagles a 5-3 triumph over Loudoun Valley for the Class 4 trophy. It became Jamestown’s first girls tennis VHSL title since 2013.
Jamestown came into the final with confidence from a 5-3 semifinal victory Monday over Hanover that ended the Hawks’ three-year championship streak. When Clark, Elliott and Lily McCullough routed their Loudoun Valley opponents in singles, losing just a game each, and Alana Fiscella won 6-4, 6-3, the Eagles enjoyed a 4-2 lead that seemed safe. All they had to do was win one doubles match.
With a 6-2, 4-0 lead, it looked like Clark and Elliott, the Region A doubles champions, would wrap up things. But the Vikings’ Sarah St. John and Carleigh Leavitt quit making as many unforced errors, and the Eagles saw their total climb.
“They played differently, and it took us a little while to adapt, but we got it,” Clark said
Did they ever. With fans of both sides yelling in between points and tension high, Clark held serve at 5-6 to force a tiebreak, which Jamestown won 7-0. Their teammates went through the gate and joined the happy pair on the court.
Eagles coach Karen Johnson joked that when she talked to her top pair at 5-6, “those were magic words. I’ve just got to remember them. They dug in when it counted. Good for them.”
Elliott, a left-hander, hit deft, short angled volleys to win several points, and Clark put her frustration aside to hop and skip to congratulate her after them.
Even if Clark and Elliott hadn’t clinched the crown, it seemed like teammates Sydney Lowe and Lily McCullough would. They were leading 6-4, 3-6, 5-0, but didn’t need to finish since the top tandem already had won.
Clark is in the singles semifinals Friday and was set to play in the individual doubles semis with Elliott.
Class 4 boys
Jamestown, which came into Thursday’s final with a 12-0 record, was often overmatched by Blacksburg as the Bruins dispatched the Eagles 5-0 at Huntington Park.
Alex Rodriguez, on line 3, shut out Aaron Squire 6-0, 6-0 to set the tone before Region D singles champion Sammy Xiang finished a 6-0, 6-0 blanking of Jackson Wagner on line 1.
Garrett Bellin (6-4, 6-1), previously unbeaten Johnathan Pratt (6-4, 6-1) and Ishan Parikh (6-3, 6-0) fell to their opponents, ending the match.
Jamestown’s Ben Sheriff, on line 4, lost the first set 7-5, but was leading Robert Cowan 4-3 when Blacksburg registered its fifth point and the match was stopped.
“They’ve been tough in Class 4 for a while,” Jamestown coach Erik Wright said, “but they’re deeper than I thought. It was a lot of offense from them. I don’t think we fell off much.
“Usually their top two are great, but they brought six really good players. We’re not hanging our head at all.”
Blacksburg was dominant, though the best player in its senior class, singles champion Frank Thompson, wasn’t on the team as he prepares for his freshman season at Virginia Tech, where his father, Jim, is the men’s coach.