It has been a tumultuous year for Langley's girls tennis team, complete with a midseason coaching change, a default in the semifinals of the AAA Liberty District singles tournament and a wild four-hour AAA Northern Region quarterfinal yesterday.
The Saxons survived, however, and after Thiki Bertrand and Alissa Mun's victory over Meg Zemitis and Kelly Mellichar, 7-6 (7-5), 6-0, at No. 3 doubles, they are just one win away from qualifying for the Virginia state tournament. The doubles triumph gave Langley a 5-4 victory over previously unbeaten Lake Braddock (12-1).
The Saxons (10-3) advanced to today's 1 p.m. regional semifinal at Yorktown (11-0), a 5-3 quarterfinal winner over Oakton (10-4) yesterday.
"The biggest thing is that the girls have hung tough through it all," said Langley Coach Jamie Clark, who took over for Bill Stern midway through the season after Stern resigned. "Our team really dug down deep. These were the hardest matches I've seen us play all year."
It appeared Bertrand and Mun were set to cruise when they jumped to a 5-2 first-set lead. But freshman Zemitis and sophomore Mellichar came back to win four straight games.
Bertrand and Mun rallied to force a tiebreaker, which they won, then took the first three games of the second set before theirs became the only undecided match. "It was a little bit nerve-wracking because it's a lot of pressure to win for the team," Mun said. "We were just concentrating on every point, communicating on the court, staying calm, relaxed and having fun on the court."
Minutes earlier, Lake Braddock had drawn even when Katie Zemitis and Shannon Evenstad came from behind to beat Van-Anh Nguyen and Laura Schwickrath, 6-4, 6-4. In a bizarre match in which both teams received warnings--Lake Braddock for excessive celebration and Langley for excessive arguing--Nguyen and Schwickrath led 4-1 in the first set before Zemitis and Evenstad won the next eight games.
Nguyen, who withdrew from the Liberty District singles semifinals because she was getting too far behind on schoolwork, attempted to play every ball whether or not it was hit to her. But the strategy backfired.
"In the first five games we tried to hit it to [Schwickrath] and it was like Canadian doubles because [Nguyen] took every shot," Katie Zemitis said. "Then we tried to mix it up and [Nguyen] started getting angry. We were having fun and she wasn't."
The match marked the third consecutive year Lake Braddock has lost in the regional quarterfinals.
"I'm not disappointed," Bruins Coach Jeff Jones said. "My girls fought hard. Had my number three doubles team had a couple years more experience, things may have been different."
CENTREVILLE 9, WASHINGTON-LEE 0: The defending Virginia AAA state champions lost just one set in their Northern Region quarterfinal. Senior All-Met Laura James defeated Monica Ramallo, 6-0, 6-4, and her sister, sophomore Kristen James, blanked Joyce Dominick, 6-0, 6-0.
The Wildcats (13-0) travel to Madison (13-0) today at 1 to decide who will go to the regional final. Both finalists advance to the state tournament.
"We all know it's going to be close," Centreville Coach Ellen Parker said. "Numbers 4, 5, and 6 singles, and Numbers 1 and 2 doubles will be the swing matches."
MADISON 9, WEST SPRINGFIELD 0: Madison also lost just one set in its victory. "I think we match up well, but we've got to come ready to play," Madison Coach Ernest Tolten said.