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Colby Arrington tops Alec Travers for the boys singles title. Patrick Henry's Ciara Mulcahy won the girls championship.
KYLE GREEN | The Roanoke Times
Franklin County’s Colby Arrington returns a shot against Patrick Henry’s Alec Travers in the Western Valley District final at River’s Edge on Thursday.
KYLE GREEN | The Roanoke Times
Ciara Mulcahy returns a shot from Patrick Henry teammate Mason Wheeler in the Western Valley District final at River’s Edge on Thursday. Both advance to the regional tournament.
Friday, May 10, 2013
A rare bird was spotted Thursday at the Western Valley District tennis tournament at River’s Edge Sports Complex.
A Franklin County Eagle became the first and last player from the Rocky Mount school to win the WVD boys singles championship.
Colby Arrington etched his name into the books by defeating Patrick Henry’s top-seeded Alec Travers 6-4, 6-0 in the final chapter in the 12-year history of the WVD.
Patrick Henry’s Ciara Mulcahy defeated PH teammate Mason Wheeler 6-1, 7-6 (8-6) in an all-freshman battle in the girls championship.
All four players have earned berths in the Northwest Region tournament in two weeks.
Arrington dropped both regular-season matches against Travers, and the Franklin County senior fell into an immediate 3-0 hole in the first set Thursday.
“I was nervous,” Arrington said. “I’m not going to say I wasn’t. I just settled down and started playing my game.”
That meant controlling play from the baseline with a strong forehand, followed up by occasional forays to the net for winning volleys.
Arrington (12-5) also brought along another weapon — a solid first serve that produced several free points thanks to missed returns by Travers. Arrington also had no double faults.
“I was hitting my first serve well,” he said. “Unlike the past two matches with him, I finally had my serve in this match.”
Travers, who normally bounds across the court with a confident stride, saw his positive body language fade as the match began to slip away despite the exhortations of PH coach Jim Hill.
“I fell off mentally and physically,” Travers said. “It definitely starts mentally and I’m not as mentally strong as I need to be.
“I’m really good at throwing things away, and I guess that was just another chance for me to do it. I’m mad at myself for it.”
Arrington, who will lead the Eagles against Colonial Forge in a regional team match at 4:30 p.m. today at Franklin County Recreation Park, said he picked up on his opponent’s slide.
“I knew as soon as I got back to 3-all, he was starting to lose his momentum and his patience,” he said. “At the beginning of the second set I wanted to get a big lead and get in a comfort zone.”
Travers (11-5), who will pair with W.P. Elder in today’s 4 p.m. doubles final against PH teammates Ford Carson and William Cathey, was unbeaten at the No. 5singles spot for the Patriots two years ago before opting to play lacrosse last spring.
Despite taking a year off, Travers nearly won the district.
“I wanted to do something different last year and I had a lot of fun doing that,” he said. “It’s a rebuilding year for us on the tennis team. I got a chance to lead us so I went ahead and played tennis again.”
The girls final began in glaring sunshine and finished under the lights.
Mulcahy (17-1), who played behind Wheeler at No. 2 singles in the first half of the season, had a tough time putting her teammate away in the second set.
“We’ve been back and forth all season,” Mulcahy said. “I feel like it’s been a growing experience for both of us.
“We’ve had a lot of matches against each other, both in USTA and high school. You’ve just got to ignore who’s on the other side of the net and play your game.”
The two PH players exhibited opposite on-court demeanor. While Wheeler remained reserved, Mulcahy flexed, fist-pumped, and verbally spurred herself to the title. On several points, Mulcahy strode to the back fence to clear away a missed first serve, then walked backward to the baseline before turning to receive the second ball.
“It’s a mental game,” Wheeler said. “I guess it’s her way of showing us she’s the alpha dog.
“All that matters is two Patrick Henry players are going to the regionals. She helps me improve and I help her improve. As long as we keep pushing each other we’re both going to go very far.”
Leanna Carter and Nora Ferguson, two mainstays on Franklin County’s team that reached the Group AAA semifinals last year, won the girls doubles title with a pair of three-set victories including a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Wheeler and Allie Greene of PH in the final.
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