Douglas Freeman knew through simple math it had to steal at least two victories at the top four singles and top two doubles positions -- in which Centreville had lost one match this season -- to have any chance in today's Virginia AAA tennis final at Raintree Swim and Racquet Club.
But Centreville sophomore Jenny Nolen's crucial victory at No. 4 singles gave the Wildcats (18-0) a cushion, and Laura and Kristen James clinched the school's second straight state title, 5-4, with a convincing win at No. 1 doubles. Freeman finished 15-3.
"From the beginning of the season this has been our unspoken goal," Centreville Coach Ellen Parker said. "You don't think state championship when you come in on August 9. But we really were. We just had to focus one step at a time."
Centreville led, 3-2, when Nolen defeated Freeman's Claire Culley, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), in a 2-hour 47-minute marathon. Nolen led a set and 4-1, but Culley stormed back with four straight games to go up 5-4, including two 0-30 comebacks. Nolen recovered, forced a tiebreaker and put Centreville up 4-2 in matches when Culley sent a backhand well wide on Nolen's first match point.
"I kept it short to her backhand at the end, because she would hit them out or in the net," said Nolen, who finished the season 18-0 at No. 4 singles.
The win meant Centreville needed just one doubles match for the championship, quickly provided by the James sisters. They won the final 10 games to down Mary-Ellen Lahy and Cary Wyeth, 6-3, 6-0. Leading 5-2, Centreville retired the final two doubles matches after losing the first set in each.
Earlier, Vanderdys (18-0) needed just 38 minutes to put Centreville up 1-0 with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Wyeth. Susan Zirkle defeated Paige Topping, 6-3, 6-1, at No. 5 to momentarily pull Freeman even, but the James sisters both followed with wins. At No. 2 singles, Kristen James (18-0) hit 24 winners and had just nine unforced errors to defeat freshman Lexi Torrice, 6-1, 6-1.
"I was being pretty aggressive today," Kristen James said. "She was really consistent and got a lot of balls back, so I was happy to come in and put the ball away if I could."
Laura James (16-1) overcame 21 unforced errors and seven double faults to knock off Lahy, 6-1, 6-3, at No. 1 singles.
"I was a little more inconsistent today, but I think I had the upper edge," Laura James said. "I knew I could always fight back."