Just as in the 2006 Group A Virginia State Tournament, the vaunted girls of Gate City blocked the George Mason High School varsity girls tennis team from its goal of a state championship, eliminating the Mustangs 5-2 in the semifinals held Friday afternoon on the campus of Radford University in Radford, Va.
Behind a dominant performance from top-flight singles player Tara Sheets, the Gate City Blue Devils claimed four of six singles matches to take a commanding lead. Only singles victories by freshman Kelsey Kane at No. 3 singles (6-4, 7-6 (8-6)) and No. 5 player senior Margaret Lipman (6-4, 6-4) kept the Blue Devils from clinching the match without advancing to doubles competition.
The pair of Mason victories would only delay the inevitable, however, as Sheets and her doubles partner, Kaitlyn Musick, dispatched the Mason pairing of sophomore Michelle Repper and freshman Kelsey Kane 6-0, 6-3 to advance to the finals against Radford High School. The Blue Devils prevailed there as well, winning their fifth-straight state title.
The match will be the final one for Mason’s six seniors: Anna Duning (No. 2), Alina Kaye (No. 4), Lipman (No. 5), Yesha Shrestha (No. 6) and alternates Sarah Meyer and Louise Robertson.
“The seniors are the reason we are where we are as a program,” Mason Head Coach Chris Madison said. “They have given the younger players the roadmap to success … this program is strong and healthy and I give full credit to our seniors.”
The road to Radford was not an easy one for the Mustangs. Repper battled a season-long illness that kept her from playing at full strength. Mason nearly failed to progress out of the two-team Bull Run District, after dropping the first match of the season against Clarke County. The Mustangs gathered themselves, however and defeated Clarke in the second meeting and then dominated the decisive tie-breaker match, 7-0, two days later.
“I have to say it truly made us a better team in the long run,” Madison said about the pre-state grind. “I don’t know that I have had a team as good as the one I had this year in my eight seasons coaching the girls tennis team here at Mason.”