The York High girls tennis team saved eight match points Saturday in the state Group 3A championship match, but Western Albemarle finally closed out a 5-1 victory on Liberty University's courts in Lynchburg.
Kristin Dantzler, playing No. 3, put the Falcons ahead 1-0 in the matchup of unbeaten teams with a straight-sets victory. But the Warriors (24-0) pulled even as Emily Kochard beat Teresa Alvarez on line 1, rallying from a 4-1 second-set deficit to win that set 6-4. Kochard, a senior left-hander, has committed to play for NCAA Division III power Washington and Lee.
Maddy Ix pulled away from Gaby Tersigni, taking the second set 6-1 to put Western ahead 2-1, and Savannah Diamond won in straight sets to boost the Warriors' advantage to 3-1.
No. 5 player Courtney Jenkins nearly got York back into the match, winning the first set and reaching a tiebreak in the second set. But Western's Maggie Roesch pulled even by prevailing in the tiebreak, then winning the third set to give the Warriors a commanding 4-1 advantage.
York's last hope to get the match into doubles rested at No. 4 with Ashley Gailey. Trailing in the second set, she fended off eight match points. But Stephanie Barton finally emerged with a 7-6, 7-5 triumph to spark a celebration by the Warriors.
The Falcons (16-1) finally found a team they couldn't defeat. They went through the Bay Rivers District season unbeaten, won the Colonial Rivers Conference 25 tournament and took the East Region championship. Along every step of the way, they overcame a tough Lafayette squad. Then, in a state semifinal at Centre Court Racquet Club, they defeated West runner-up Spotswood to reach the final for the first time.
Alvarez, a senior who grew up in Spain, won her conference singles championship reached the state singles semifinals by placing second in the East Region tournament. Tersigni, a junior, was the conference singles runner-up, and she joined Alvarez in breezing to the regional doubles crown and the VHSL doubles semis.
Dantzler, an International Baccalaureate student who transferred from Walsingham Academy following eighth grade — the Trojans have dropped their girls tennis team — didn’t lose a singles match in a dual contest all season.
Western Albemarle, last year's state Group AA runner-up, benefits from being in the same area as the University of Virginia, which fields some of the NCAA's best teams.
Last year's Group AAA champions, the Thomas Jefferson boys of Alexandria and the Mills Godwin girls of Richmond, won the first 5A crowns with 5-1 triumphs at Huntington Park. Neither match necessitated doubles.
TJ overcame Deep Run, losing only on line 4. Godwin won its second crown in a row and its ninth in 13 years, overcoming a George Marshall team from Fairfax County that started freshmen in the top three positions.
Thomas Jefferson, one of the nation's top academic schools, quickly went ahead 3-0 by winning on the top three lines. No. 1 Mark Prettyman, the 5A state singles runner-up, No. 2 Kevin Wan and No. 3 Nikhil Ramachandran gave the Colonials early command against the South Region champion Wildcats.
Grant Rabalais, who serves left-handed but otherwise plays as a righty, gave Deep Run some upset hope with a 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 win at No. 4. But TJ pulled out close second sets on the lower two lines over Deep Run lefties to complete its repeat, with Saelig Khattar winning 6-1, 7-6 (9-7) against Eric Pawela at 6 before Brad Rosenblum overcame Chris Bone 6-3, 7-5 at 5.
In the girls' match, George Marshall stayed competitive early before Godwin's experience showed. The Eagles were appearing in their 13th consecutive state final, a streak that started well before Roger Federer had won any adult major championships.
No. 1 Keerthana Shankar gave the Eagles their first point, winning 6-2, 6-1 against Shreya Peddinti. About 25 minutes later, Godwin gained a stranglehold on the match with wins on lines 5, 6 and 2, thanks to Anna Brodzik, Sophie Linnell and Anna Sidhu.
Dany Chaillo averted the shutout for the Statesmen, defeating Morgan Fuqua 6-2, 7-5 at No. 4.
But at No. 3, Jackie Dillon recovered after falling behind 5-0 and won 3-6, 6-0, 6-1 over Priya Trehan, clinching the victory for Godwin. After hugs and screams on the court, the Eagles walked to the nearby James River to take their traditional victory dip.
"We've had a great week of tennis," longtime Godwin coach Mark Seidenberg said. "We've been getting up early to practice, like at 6:45 yesterday. We've been practicing on Saturdays."
To many observers, it seemed like the Eagles' amazing streak of advancing to the championship match would end, since Deep Run had been better than Godwin through most of the season. But Seidenberg said his team's health improved, and along with the practices, it paved the way for a 5-3 South Region semifinal victory that ended the Wildcats' team season and proved to be the Eagles' most crucial win.
Seidenberg enjoyed the ending for Dillon.
"Jackie Dillon, our senior, loses the first five games, but she had confidence and got three games in that set," Seidenberg said. "She's the only one that's been in the state championship all four years."
In last season's final, in which Godwin defeated Deep Run, Dillon lost a three-set match at No. 3 -- to Logan Eldridge, this season's Capital Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year for Christopher Newport. But this time, Dillon prevailed in the clutch.
In his notebook, Seidenberg has a page with 10 lines to sign -- five each for the individual victories in the semifinal and final that would give the Eagles another state championship. Guess who got to sign the last line?
"I told her, 'Jackie, we've got one spot left.' "
Cox, boasting excellent depth, captured the state 6A crown in Northern Virginia with a 5-3 victory over Oakton.
The Falcons won despite the presence of Cornell-bound Lizzie Stewart of Oakton, who won the state singles title and shared the doubles crown with Lindsey Le.
Cox also was missing Sarah Whited, who was one game away from the South Region singles title when she hurt her ankle, ending her season.
But the rest of the Falcons' lineup came through, beating a team that reached the Group AAA semifinals a year ago.