The once-great Jamestown High girls tennis dynasty has returned to the summit.
The Eagles, displaying considerable poise throughout the lineup, defeated Western Albemarle 5-3 Saturday at Virginia Tech for the final state Group AA championship in a match that took about 3 1/2 hours.
Seniors Elizabeth Wallace and Kathy Sharp took the clinching match 6-1, 6-0 at No. 2 doubles to set off a celebration on the Hokies' maroon-and-orange indoor courts.
Jamestown, which won six titles in a seven-year span from 2000-06, hadn't been to the championship match since 2008 despite being competitive every year. The Eagles had seen their season end in the state semifinals the previous four seasons.
But this team was different, capturing the Eagles' first title in seven years and proving to be Karen Johnson's best in her five years as coach. Even when sister standouts Leah Walter and Anna Walter couldn't dominate like they had in the Bay Rivers District, the lower starters came through.
That was the case again Saturday in Blacksburg.
Johnson said the year's turning point came April 15, which she called the exact midpoint of the regular season. The Eagles were 3-3, with 6-3 and 5-4 defeats to quality Group AAA teams and a 5-4 loss in Lynchburg at E.C. Glass.
"We had a 'come to Jesus' meeting," Johnson said. "I told them, 'You shouldn't be happy with these 5-4 losses. Because they're so close, they could've been wins.' I challenged them. 'If you want this to happen, you better do something to make it happen.' "
That day, Johnson said, "It was a really good practice. I told them I didn't do anything different -- the difference is that you guys put the effort and the focus in after our talk. They were hungry enough to buy into it. They were really motivated ... wanting the outcome to be different this year."
It was. The Eagles went 15-0 the rest of the way, and Western was the only squad to register three team points on them.
Among the post-talk triumphs were a 5-0 whitewashing at Eastern View in the Region I final, a 5-2 state quarterfinal victory against a Handley team with an outstanding duo atop the lineup, and a 5-0 semifinal triumph over a Hidden Valley program that took the 2010 and '11 championships.
After their breakthrough semifinal win, Johnson said, "We tried to let them know: Don't just be satisfied with just being here. No, that's not the goal."
Western Albemarle won its semifinal 5-2 over E.C. Glass, but the refocused Eagles never relinquished command.
Jamestown took command of Saturday's match at 4-2 with singles victories by freshman Anna Walter at line 2, Wallace at 3, Sharp at 4 and Katie Hunt at 6. That put the Warriors in a huge hole, though left-hander Emily Kochard beat senior Leah Walter 6-1, 6-2 at No. 1 in a matchup of regional singles champs – a similar result to their singles semifinal two days before – and Western's Fran Clifton defeated Sarah Reso 6-3, 6-1 on line 5.
Western won the No. 3 doubles match to cut its deficit to 4-3, but Wallace and Sharp never were threatened. Meanwhile, the Walter sisters were leading 7-6 (7-5), 6-5 when the Eagles clinched the crown.
"There was a lot of joy on the court," Johnson said, "the joy of the moment of reaching what they had worked for."
Walter sisters fall in doubles final
After the team match, Leah and Anna Walter played an anticlimactic Group AA doubles final, losing 6-2, 6-2 as Jessie Nolan and Kathryn Bock of Winchester's Handley High repeated as champs.
Those tandems faced each other Tuesday and were at 4-all in the first set when the match was abandoned, thanks to a triumph by Wallace and Sharp that gave the Eagles an insurmountable lead against the Judges.
In singles, though, Nolan beat Leah Walter and Bock defeated Anna, both in straight sets. That was a harbinger of Saturday's result.
JAMESTOWN 5, WESTERN ALBEMARLE 3
Singles: Emily Kochard (WA) d. Leah Walter 6-1, 6-2; Anna Walter (J) d. Maddy Ix 6-1, 6-2; Elizabeth Wallace (J) d. Lauren Kearns 6-0, 6-0; Kathy Sharp (J) d. Claire Park 7-5, 6-1; Fran Clifton (WA) d. Sarah Reso 6-3, 6-1; Katie Hunt (J) d. Stephanie Barton 6-1, 6-4.
Doubles: Walter-Walter (J) led Kochard-Ix 7-6 (7-5), 6-5, did not finish; Wallace-Sharp (J) d. Clifton-Park 6-1, 6-0; Barton-Gupton (WA) d. Hunt-Kristin Lilley 6-4, 6-2.Copyright © 2015, CT Now