Western Tennis Sweeps SHS Boys, Girls
PENN LAIRD — Two weeks’ time will tell whether Friday foreshadowed the Spotswood High School boys’ tennis team’s ultimate fate this season or provided the Trailblazers with the wake-up call they needed.
In any case, perennial power Western Albemarle will still be the Conference 29 tournament champion.
The Warriors (17-1) wrapped up the conference tournament crown without going into doubles play, handing the host Trailblazers their first loss of the season in a somewhat deceiving 5-1 title-match outcome.
Spotswood (17-1) seniors Joe Dillenbeck and Emmett Johnson each left SHS believing their respective matches at Nos. 1 and 2 singles could have gone either way.
“I mean, I feel like we hang with ’em, even though the score line was so off,” said Johnson, who fell 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 to Western senior Joe Squillace in the team-match clincher. “I think if Joe plays his best tennis, he has the weapons and everything to win. I obviously went three sets, so I have the weapons and chance to win. … The doubles lineup looks takeable. Hopefully, we can just get another chance and play better.”
It was a similar story for Spotswood’s girls’ team (18-1), which fell 5-1 to host Western Albemarle in a battle of unbeaten teams that featured three first-set tiebreakers and one three-set match.
“I would certainly come away from that saying that match [was] a good stepping-stone as we start into regionals,” girls’ tennis co-coach Bob Failes said. “Western’s a proven team to go on into the final four.”
All of these teams, in both boys’ and girls’ competition, had already clinched a berth into the 2A West Region tournament, which begins two weeks from now. Although Squillace agreed with Johnson’s opinion that the final score wasn’t necessarily reflective of the talent gap between the two boys’ squads, Western’s No. 2 singles player noted his team now has the mental edge in the event of a possible rematch.
“This was also probably one of our toughest [matches] all year,” he said. “We played a really good team. But just taking five and not having to go into doubles definitely gives us confidence.”
Said SHS coach Jim Roth: “Instead of just coming out and beating people the way we have, I think it’s good to get knocked down every once and a while.”
Dillenbeck’s No. 1 singles tilt against Western junior Tucker Ottaway proved to be a classic matchup of power vs. consistency. Showing glimpses of his vast potential, Dillenbeck – a 6-foot-5, 195-pound hard hitter who only started playing tennis in high school – led 4-3 in the first set against the more seasoned Ottaway before ultimately losing serve and falling 6-4, 6-4.
Most of Western’s players, according to Squillace, have been playing tennis at the Boar’s Head Inn indoor facility in Charlottesville since their middle-school days.
“I think it was kind of a shock just because this season – we’ve been rolling,” Dillenbeck said. “This was the first really good team we’ve seen, but I think we played well. I think it was good to get this experience under our belt before regionals.”
Spotswood’s lone victory in each match came at No. 5 singles, where sophomores Conner Houlbrooke and Nicole Shifflett each prevailed in tight contests.