SALEM, Va. – After battling for two hours and 40 minutes in the heat at Roanoke College Thursday morning, Abingdon tennis player Anna Campbell set her mind on one basic goal.
“I just wanted the match to be done, so I tried to finish it as fast as I could,” Campbell said.
Thanks to clever strategy, a precision two-handed backhand and endurance, Campbell rallied for a 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 win against Corrine Jennings from Western Albemarle in the Class 3 singles semifinals.
“That was a very hot match with very long points,” Campbell said. “I’m proud of myself for pushing through to win.”
One hour after her semifinal victory, Campbell encountered an athletic juggernaut in five-foot-eight Natasha Novak from York. A four-time Class 3 finalist in singles, Novak earned her second crown with a 6-1, 6-0 decision against Campbell.
Novak, who plans to play tennis at NCAA Division I Duquesne while studying to be a doctor, has been ranked among the top 153 seniors nationally and among the top six seniors in Virginia. Novak featured a blistering forehand.
“I tried to move her around and keep the ball to her backhand as much as I could,” Campbell said. “She’s just a very good player.”
Novak remembered her two close calls in the singles championship as a freshman and sophomore.
“Yes, that was motivation for today,” Novak said.
Campbell had not lost all season until meeting Novak. The AHS junior will likely treasure her semifinal survival throughout the summer.
In addition to the heat, both players endured steady airplane traffic, a couple of loud matches involving boys on adjacent courts, and sudden wind gusts. With the scored tied 5-5 in the second set, Campbell managed to deliver a successful lob through the wind.
“You just have to adjust to the elements,” Campbell said. “I practice pretty much every day and work out with a trainer. It was just a great match against a great player. Anything after that was icing on the cake.”
Campbell said she will put Thursday’s mental and physical grind into her memory bank.
“I lost in the regional final last year and I had a goal of making it past that point this season,” Campbell said. “I’m still a work-in-progress for sure, but it was nice to make the finals.”
First-year AHS coach Jim Barker said he and Campbell took notes from the suspended match against Jennings in Tuesday’s team quarterfinal at Western Albemarle.
“Anna played too much in the center of the court in that earlier match, so we talked about opening the court today and making (Jennings) run a little more,” Barker said. “Anna moved well and hit well today. When fatigue started to become a factor, Anna was able to adjust and still keep the ball in play. She’s a pleasure to coach.”
Due to the probability of persistent rain in the Roanoke Valley, today’s Class 3 doubles competition has been moved to the indoor facility at Hunting Hills Country Club in Roanoke.
The unbeaten pairing of Campbell and senior Annie Miller will contend with Jennings and Austin Winslow from Western Albemarle at 11 a.m., with the title match to follow at 1 p.m.
In boys action Thursday, Abingdon freshman Dillon McReynolds fell 6-0, 6-0 in the semifinals to defending state champ Gavin Seagraves from traditional Western Albemarle.
“(Seagraves) is definitely the best player I’ve faced all season,” McReynolds said.
McReynolds was aware Seagraves resume so he developed an aggressive plan.
“I knew it was going to be a rough match, so I tried to put a little more power on my shots and make things happen,” McReynolds said. “I thought I did a pretty good job with that overall, but he’s just a great player.”
The relentless Seagraves cruised to the state title Thursday afternoon with another 6-0, 6-0 masterpiece against R.J. Novak from York.
McReynolds failed to win a point against Seagraves in the Class 2 state team quarterfinal team match on June 1. A senior, Seagraves has signed to play tennis at the U.S. Naval Academy.
Relying on a consistent backhand, McReynolds posted a singles record of 22-5 this season. Not bad for first-year varsity player who anticipated being a No. 2 seed for AHS.
“I wasn’t expecting to come this far, so I’m certainly pleased with how I played to reach this point,” McReynolds said. “
McReynolds began his tennis adventure at age six under the guidance of longtime instructor David Poole. The tournament routine followed two years later.
“David is a big reason why I’m here,” McReynolds said. “I feel really confident in my backhand, and I’m always working to develop my game more.”
Another key for McReynolds is height. He spurted from 5-foot-7 to six-foot in one year.
“And I think that’s I’m supposed to grow a little more,” McReynolds
Unlike many tennis phenoms, McReynolds knows more than tennis. He competes on the AHS basketball, and plans to participate at team camp in two weeks.
“I’ve enjoyed this season and I definitely will keep this match in mind,” McReynolds said. “I want to come back here over the next few years and make more memories. Competing at state is pretty cool.”
McReynolds and sophomore Carter Hylton will face Seagraves and Alex Ix in today’s 5:30 doubles semifinal at Hunting Hill. The final has a tentative start of 7:30.
With his strong net play, Hylton’s game offers a contrast to McReynolds.
“Carter and I have played together since we were much younger, so we know each other’s game well,” McReynolds said “We just have to play to each other’s strengths.
In action at Radford University Thursday, Region D champion Adam Terry from John Battle began his morning with a 7-5, 6-1 conquest of Region C titlist Coleman Morgan from Galax.
Terry then ran into a foe and school that has become familiar to John Battle fans over the past few years in defending state champ Ryan Bernstine from Goochland.
Once again, the power of Bernstine made the difference as he took a 6-0, 6-0 win.
Meanwhile, John Battle senior Claire Melton faced one of the state’s most accomplished players in Kathleen Reuwer. The Radford senior entered the day with career singles record of 81-0, but she had to work overtime for a 6-0, 7-6 (7-1) decision over Melton
Reuwer lost 6-3, 6-4, to Samantha Finnegan from Maggie Walker in the finals. Class 1
Region D champion Megan Dockery from J.I. Burton could relate to Melton in terms of a challenging first round opponent.
Dockery dropped a 6-2, 6-1 match to Sarah Elmasry from Galax. A couple hours later, Elmasry grabbed the state crown with a 6-2, 6-2 victory against Laura Ambrose from Rappahannock.
Today’s Class 1 and 2 doubles tournament have been moved to Virginia Tech, with action beginning at 9 a.m.
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