Judges beat Warriors for 3rd straight NWD boys’ tennis title

Posted: May 15, 2013

Junior Matt Blaney and the Warriors qualified for the Region II tournament for the sixth straight year by reaching the district finals. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)
Handley’s Matt Drunagel cruised past Sherando’s Matt Blaney 6-2, 6-2 to help the Judges to a 5-0 win over the Warriors and claim the Northwestern District Tournament title. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — Handley boys’ tennis coach Jimmy Robertson ended Tuesday’s team meeting by congratulating the Judges on their victory, but he also issued a reminder.

“You ain’t won nothin’ yet.”

Top-seeded Handley didn’t waste any time in beating No. 2 Sherando 5-0 Tuesday at the Slaughter Tennis Pavilion for its third straight Northwestern District tournament title.

In the five matches they won, Handley dropped just seven games — including two 6-0, 6-0 sweeps — and freshman Parker Wilson was just two points away from victory after going up 6-2, 5-3 at No. 1 singles.

But perhaps the most notable part of Handley’s Tuesday was that after the awards ceremony and its team meeting, the Judges stuck around to play doubles against each other since they didn’t get to do so in team competition.

No, a team that advanced to the Group AA semifinals last year and features four seniors in its top six definitely isn’t satisfied with winning only district championships. The district tournament is just the first step en route to what they hope is another deep postseason run.

“[Monday] was the first day of the season for us, really,” said senior No. 2 singles player Matt Drunagel, referencing Monday’s 5-0 district semifinal win over Skyline. “Everything else was just building for [Monday], and this is a good way to start.

“We’re just looking to do what we did last year, and maybe make it a little farther.”

Handley (13-2) beat Sherando (10-7) in each of their two regular season matches 8-1 en route to winning the district regular season title, and the Judges never gave the Warriors any reason to hope things might be different.

Senior Taylor Watts (6-0, 6-0) and his freshman brother Carter Watts (6-0, 6-0) were the first two players off the court, and they were followed by senior Hamilton Merrill (6-1, 6-0), senior Buster Wigley (6-0, 6-2) and Drunagel (6-2, 6-2).

“I thought we played well,” Wigley said. “I didn’t see the majority of the other matches, but we came in planning to win, and that’s what we did.”

Robertson said it was difficult having to wait out the rainy weather that pushed the tournament from last week to this week, but he didn’t feel the Judges showed any signs of rustiness in their two tournament wins.

“The team performed pretty well,” said Robertson, whose Judges are heading to their 17th straight Region II tournament and will host a quarterfinal match on Monday. “We were excited to get out and get a match win.”

It was evident that Wilson was a little disappointed that he didn’t get to finish his match since he was up love-30 on Sherando senior Chris Mikus at 5-3 in the second set, but he certainly has reason to be confident heading into the district singles tournament that starts today.

After losing to Mikus 10-2 in their first match on April 4, Wilson won the rematch 10-5 on April 23 before turning in another strong performance Tuesday against his biggest challenger in the district.

“He’s just played a lot more aggressive,” said Robertson of Wilson in his last two matches against Mikus. “That’s more representative of his playing style. That first match, he was a freshman standing here on Court 1 at Handley High School, and that takes some getting used to.”

Sherando is also getting pretty accustomed to success at this point, because Monday’s 5-3 semifinal win over Millbrook clinched its sixth straight Region II tournament berth.

This is the least experienced group the Warriors have fielded during their run though, so the fact that they get to keep playing (Sherando will travel for its Region II quarterfinal Monday) definitely means a lot to Warriors coach Steve Jennings.

“They’ve played above my expectations,” he said. “I didn’t anticipate getting this far when we first started. The boys played well, played with good heart and played like gentlemen, so I’m very happy with how it turned out. Second in the district is pretty good.”

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at  rniedzwiecki@winchesterstar.comFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1