BLACKSBURG, Va. – As a Class 1 school competing in the Class 2 boys tennis tournament, the odds were against the Eastside Spartans.
That situation was just fine for Eastside senior Jordan Rasnick.
“We like taking on that underdog role and upsetting bigger schools,” Rasnick said.
After posting a 5-4 conquest at John Battle in the state semifinals, the Spartans had no antidote for the Green Dragons in Saturday’s championship match at Virginia Tech.
Displaying power at all six seeds, the Richmond-based Maggie Walker Governor’s School Green Dragons won their fifth state title since 2014 with a 5-0 decision against Eastside.
Spartans coach Alicia Jones had a long chat with her six seniors after the trophy ceremony.
“This is a very sentimental day,” said Jones, who played tennis at the former Coeburn High School. “At the beginning of the season, we weren’t sure how things were going to go but our guys absolutely had the determination to complete this road to the state finals.”
The frustration for Eastside’s top seed John Robert Kilgore against William Hobbs was illustrative of the afternoon for the Spartans.
“[Hobbs] was running me to death by painting the lines with his forehand and backhand,” Kilgore said.
Kilgore doubled as the relentless point guard for the Eastside basketball team which advanced to the Class 1 title game the past two years.
“I know the feeling of finishing second, but I’d rather reach this point than lose in the semifinals,” Kilgore said.
It was during basketball season when Kilgore and three of his teammates found out about the Maggie Walker tennis culture.
“We actually practiced at Maggie Walker in preparation for the state tournament at Virginia Commonwealth, so we saw all those state tennis championship banners in the gym,” Kilgore said. “We knew that we were facing a really good team. We did all we could.”
While the Spartans failed to win a set Saturday, Rasnick said he was proud of an arduous journey.
“We were knocked out at the regional level the past three years, and we wanted to make this season count and we put all effort into reaching our goal,” said the 6-foot-3 Rasnick, who passed for over 4,000 yards as the Eastside quarterback. “We came up one win short, but it was an honor to be here.”
Rasnick, Kilgore, Erik Jones and Ethan Fields were all on the Eastside varsity tennis team the past four years. They authored the most successful season in school history as seniors.
“These guys really put in the work,” Jones said. “We’re not allowed to practice on Sunday, but there were plenty of times when the boys would just get together and hit among themselves. I hope this continues, and I know that some of the guys have talked about trying to recruit a couple of good athletes within the school to play for the team.”
As for having to battle the odds against the Class 2 titans, Kilgore focused on the big picture.
“It’s been like this since my freshman year, so you can’t make that excuse,” Kilgore said. “I couldn’t ask for anything better out of athletics except for winning a state championship, but that’s how life goes. I made a lot of memories and had a lot of fun.”
CLASS 2 GIRLS
Maggie Walker 5, Gate City 0
Veteran Gate City Delonda Spivey was well aware of the Maggie Walker tradition before Saturday morning’s match.
“We knew what we’re up against,” Spivey said.” Our girls had to be at the top of their games in all areas. We played smart and put together a lot of good points, but the Maggie Walker players were strong.”
The 10-time state champion GC Blue Devils failed to win a set while Maggie Walker earned its third straight title with four seniors.
After encountering the powerful ground strokes of MW, the GC players opted for Plan B by lobbing to the backhand of the Green Dragons.
“We thought that might be their weakness, but they adjusted well and came back with good shots,” Spivey said. “Maggie Walker has a good team, but we have a good team also.”
Senior top seed Sarah Arnold summarized the morning for Gate City.
“I was really confident in our team, but they overpowered us,” Arnold said.
Maggie Walker, which has an enrollment of 723, will compete at the Class 3 level next season.
“I’m glad for our underclassmen that [Maggie Walker] is moving up, but they are a really good team and you can’t take that away from them,” Arnold said.
According to Maggie Walker assistant coach Mike Miller, the regular top seed for the Green Dragons, Narmeen Rashid, received admission to the esteemed Massachusetts Institute of Technology before accepting a full scholarship to Richmond where she will study to become a doctor.
“We also have girls going to Stanford, Georgetown and the honors program at Virginia Commonwealth,” Miller said. “These kids are incredible and very self-driven.”
Miller offered insight into his school and tennis program, which struggled to win a handful of matches a decade ago.
“We can’t pick our kids, that’s a common misconception and something we’d love to dispel,” Miller said. “Athletics are not part of our admission process.”
Meanwhile, Saturday’s state title berth represented personal achievements for Gate City seniors Holly Carter and Sydnee Reed. After failing to make the starting rotation as a freshman, Carter was sidelined by injuries the past two years and assisted the squad as a manager in addition to seeing some time at No. 3 singles.
“I’m so proud of how these girls came together as a family,” said Carter, who plans to major in journalism at Radford. “We all played well, but that was the best team we’ve seen. There was nothing more we could have done.”
Reed, who made the top singles rotation for the first time season, went out firing in her No. 4 singles pairing against Natalie Kim.
“Today was probably the best I’ve played,” Reed said. “Natalie was just really good and I’ve got a lot of respect for her game.”
Spivey is hoping to add to the Gate City tennis legacy.
“We will work hard in the off-season and hopefully be back here,” she said.