Making it to the Virginia AAA semifinals was a magical moment for the Langley girls tennis team. But their magic ran out today as the McLean-based school fell, 6-3, to Douglas Freeman of Richmond at Burkwood Swim and Racquet Club.
Langley (12-5), which switched coaches at midseason, barely qualified for the Northern Region tournament. The Saxons won two road matches -- including a 5-4 quarterfinal victory over Lake Braddock in a contest that went down to the final match -- to make the state tournament. In Tuesday's quarterfinal, Langley handed Frank Cox of Virginia Beach a 5-4 loss behind No. 1 Van-Anh Nguyen and No. 3 doubles team Thiki Bertrand and Alissa Mun, both of whom won third-set tiebreakers.
"Nobody expected us to get this far and we really couldn't have expected any more," Langley Coach Jamie Clark said. "We kept getting better and better each match from the regionals to the states. The girls came together more and more."
Today, however, Freeman (15-2) had too much firepower. Nguyen put Langley on top early with a 6-3, 6-2 victory at over Mary-Ellen Lahy. But Freeman took Nos. 2, 3, and 6 singles in straight sets to go up 3-1. Langley's Alix van Opstal brought the Saxons to 3-2 with a come-from-behind 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over Claire Culley. But Freeman got a big lift from junior Susan Zirkle, who held off Bertrand, a freshman, in the third set to win 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.
"I hate to use the cliche, but we could not have asked more of [Bertrand]," Clark said. "She wasn't even in the starting lineup at the beginning of the year and to come in as a freshman, and win all the matches she did at No. 5 is amazing."
Freeman will play defending state champion Centreville today at 11 a.m. at the Raintree Swim and Racquet Club. The contest will be a rematch of last year's dramatic final, which went down to the final match. Freeman will be making its fourth straight appearance in the state Group AAA finals; the school has not won since 1983.
"Hopefully, it'll be another great match," Freeman Coach Larry Parpart said. "There's no doubt about it, they're strong. But we're playing well. We played well Tuesday, and we played well today. Hopefully, we can be on the top end this year."