The rivalary between the top three Virginia Commonwealth high school girls tennis teams may be friendly, but the competition between the top three players from those schools will be fierce.
Woodbridge's Jessica James, Gar-Field's Christine White and Potomac's Karen Secord are unquestionably the best players in the district. They are so good and so close in talent that no area coach could pick one over the other.
James will strive to help the Vikings extend their five-year district tournament title streak while Potomac and Gar-Field attempt to unseat them.
The 5-7, 110-pound junior lost only one match in 1989. James's bullet-fast, cross-court forehand shots established her as the Vikings top player. Woodbridge coach Lewis Forrest said that his ace player works very hard and is hungry for a win every time she steps on court.
And, James's fancy moves on the court haven't gone unnoticed by other coaches. "Jessica has improved tremendously from last year," said James Wood Coach Carol Custer. "The whole game is there. I haven't seen such confidence in a high school player, but she's not cocky."
"She (James) has more experience than the others," said Gar-Field Coach Nancy White. "She's very determined and very serious about her tennis game."
However, she addded that, "On any given day, I think any one of them could win."
Gar-Field's White, the 5-9, 125-pound daughter of coach Nancy, took runnerup in both the singles and doubles events, with teammate Denise Simcic, in last year's regional. After winning four minor tournaments this summer, Christine returns in top form with her patented serve.
"You have to take away every point from her," said Nancy. "She's not going to give you anything." Nancy has coached three of her daughters and despite tough criticism from her family, she feels that being a tough, disciplined coach has paid off in producing more collegiate tennis players than other area schools.
At Potomac, Secord has a strong forehand stroke, like James, and is a natural strategist, according to coach John Jenkins.
"She's always thinking one shot ahead," he said. "And when you try to think one ahead of her, she's thinking of how to put it away."
The 5-6 senior has maintained a consistent game which helped Potomac to its number one seeding in last year's district tournament.
"Karen is mentally tough when she plays a match," said Panthers' assistant Coach Carrie Moss. "She thinks through what's she's going to do. And, she places the ball well."
Potomac senior Nikki Arnold plays a close second to leader Secord. Arnold tends to dominate opponents with hard serves and she likes the kill shot. If Secord should slip too far down, Arnold could take over her number one slot.
Other Panthers include: Senior Kindra Frieherr, who was undefeated as number five last year and moved up to number three this year. Seniors Jennifer Rogers and Cindy Buckley and freshman Sunny Kleven, who shows promise as a future top five player.
Other top players from the Commonwealth's tennis elite are Wooodbridge junior Betsy Story and senior Chris Richards. Story plays both singles and doubles and Richards has recently returned to Viking's tennis after a two year absence.
Junior Aimee Rosenberg, freshman April Rodgers, and senior Jennifer Beard complete the top six Viking players on the 21-member squad.
Gar-Field's number two and three, senior Maria "Tess" Gamboa and sophomore Jodie Levine, comprise a large chunk of the team's talent. Gamboa has good moves and is a natural talent, according to coach White. Levine plays a smart game and tries to force quick points by rushing the net.
Seniors Amy Johnson, Amy Coffe, Charity Bedell and sophomore Beth Ridell round out the top seven Indians.
James Wood, who placed second in the districts and finished fourth, does not expect to make a return. However, Fauquier boasts a solid group that may prove to be the conference's dark horse.