The top five players for the Stone Bridge boys' tennis team were done with their singles matches quickly against Western Albemarle in a Region II semifinal Thursday. Four had won, and the Bulldogs were one victory from closing out the match and earning a spot in the region final.
With only Stone Bridge's Jason Gdowik and Western Albemarle's Chris Bayliss remaining on the court, they had the undivided attention of their teammates -- for a long while.
"The whole team came down to watch him and support him," Bulldogs Coach Brian Whitmore said. "I saw us becoming a team."
Buoyed by the support or inspired by the spotlight, Gdowik fended off a match point against him in the third set and came back for a 6-7, 6-4, 7-5 victory that clinched the team match for Stone Bridge and vaulted the Bulldogs into the Region II final against Handley. That match was scheduled to be played yesterday at Heritage.
"He was out there three hours," Whitmore said of Gdowik. After falling behind 5-4 in the third set, "Jason just turned it up a notch."
A Fifth Meeting
That the girls' tennis teams from Loudoun Valley and Loudoun County both reached the Region II final did not surprise Raiders Coach Randy Hanger.
"I saw that coming from the beginning of the season," Hanger said.
The fifth -- and last -- meeting between the Vikings and Raiders was scheduled to be played yesterday in Purcellville. The winner earned a spot in the Virginia AA team semifinals.
Loudoun County lost three straight matches to Loudoun Valley, including the Dulles District tournament final, and had to win on the road against Liberty and at home against Lee-Staunton to reach the region final for the sixth straight year. But the Raiders only needed singles play to close out their first two region tournament matches.
"The girls are getting better every time they play," Hanger said.
A long bus ride nearly took a toll on the Loudoun Valley girls Thursday in their region semifinal against Spotswood. Several of the Vikings were sluggish in the first sets of nearly all of their singles matches but recovered, enough so that none of the team's five winners needed more than two sets.
Senior Casey Bartok, however, was not one of the slow starters and set the tone for Loudoun Valley's 5-1 victory.
"She came out of the gate flying and never looked back," Vikings Coach Matt Bolen said. "She's playing with a lot of confidence right now. . . . She mixed it up really well and hit a lot of winners."
After two easy victories by his team, Bolen was bracing for yet another tight match against Loudoun County. All four of their previous meetings had resulted in 5-4 results.
"Those matches that we played under pressure built the foundation for our future success," he said. "Those matches added to the overall experience this season."