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|Eagles top PH, force playoff match Saturday|
Franklin County’s Leanna Carter (photo at left) serves to her opponent, Patrick Henry’s Ciara Mulcahy, during their contest at No. 1 singles. (Staff Photo by Steven Marsh)
Friday, May 3, 2013
By STEVEN MARSH - Sports Editor
SONTAG -- The final girls' tennis championship in the Western Valley District will be decided in a neutral-site, winner-take-all playoff match.
Tuesday, Franklin County, won its eighth straight match by avenging an earlier season, 8-1 setback to district foe Patrick Henry by downing the Patriots, 6-3, at the Franklin County Recreation Park in the regular-season finale for both teams.
The Eagles and the Patriots will meet Saturday at 3 p.m. in Roanoke at William Fleming with the district title on the line.
Because of Virginia High School League (VHSL) approved reclassification and realignment, which begins with the 2013-14 school year, the Western Valley District, league, christened in 2001-2002 by Group AAA teams that formerly competed in the old Roanoke Valley and Western districts, will dissolve.
WVD teams will become parts of three, multi-classification districts: River Ridge (Patrick Henry), Blue Ridge (William Fleming) and Piedmont (FCHS, George Washington-Danville and Halifax County).
FCHS, the league's three-time reigning league champion, is a season removed from a runner-up finish in the Northwest Region and an appearance in the Group AAA state semifinals,
The Eagles (7-1 in the WVD, 11-3 overall) won five of six singles matches to clinch the victory prior to doubles play.
In those victories, Nora Ferguson at No. 2 singles, Emily Philpott at No. 4 singles and Emma Fenton and No. 6 singles all won 10-point, third-set tiebreakers.
Ferguson (5-7, 6-2, 12-10), Philpott (3-6, 6-4, 10-6) and Fenton (1-6, 6-4, 10-6) all rallied from first-set defeats to win their matches.
Ferguson clinched the match for the Eagles with her two-point, tie-breaker victory. Fenton trailed 6-4 in her tiebreaker before scoring the final six points.
Eagles head coach Mike Hagan said Ferguson's victory over Mason Wheeler, a freshman, came in a "competitive, back-and-fourth tiebreaker.'
Kayla Anderson (6-1, 6-3), at No. 3 singles, and Taylor Ranson (6-4, 6-2), at No. 5 singles, won their matches in straight sets.
PH posted its lone win in singles at position No. 1 when Ciara Mulcahy, a freshman, bested Leanna Carter in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2.
During its eight-match winning streak, FCHS has lost only six games, four in singles, two in doubles.
The duo of Ranson and Fenton, playing at position No. 3, posted the Eagles' lone triumph in doubles.
Winning in doubles for PH were the Patriots' top two duos of Wheeler and Allie Greene (6-1, 6-3) and Mulcahy and Sabel Fink (6-3, 6-2).
Not only will the playoff match decide this year's league champion, but it will determine which team earns a first-round bye and a quarterfinal-round home match in the upcoming Northwest Region team championships.
The loser will be at home for a first-round match next Friday.
FCHS won its first district championship in girls' tennis in 2010 and repeated as titleholder in 2011 and 2012.
No matter the result of the playoff match, the Eagles will make their fourth straight appearance in the Northwest Region team championships this season.
Last year, however, was a break-through campaign for FCHS -- the Eagles won their first Northwest Region tournament match by besting them two-time reigning champion Albemarle, then they qualified for the Group AAA state tournament by besting Broad Run in the semifinals.
The Eagles lost to Riverbend in the regional championship match, but rebounded by going on the road and defeating Eastern Region titleholder Princess Anne in the Group AAA state quarterfinals to advance to the Final Four.
In the semifinals, the Eagles lost to reigning Group AAA state champion Langley, which competes in the Northern Region, to complete a program-best 17-4 campaign.
FCHS top four singles players all were sophomores on last year's club.