Washington women’s tennis puts first scuffs in new court

Published 12:25 pm Wednesday, September 2, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS LONE VETERAN: Washington No. 1 Danielle Duckwall is the only senior on a roster of 10. She lost a close battle with Currituck County’s Sarah Dover on Tuesday, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2).

LONE VETERAN: Washington No. 1 Danielle Duckwall is the only senior on a roster of 10. She lost a close battle with Currituck County’s Sarah Dover on Tuesday, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2).

Cracks sealed, grass patches nonexistent and the new glossy-blue finish radiating professionalism, the Washington women’s tennis team stepped onto the six newly resurfaced courts on Tuesday for the home opener. In a nearly three-hour match, there were no wayward ricochets or delinquent bounces, nothing but clean hitting (for the most part) and respectable tennis.

According to head coach Miranda Whitley, who used to play on these same courts as a high school student at Washington, this is the first time in more than a decade work has been done on the Pam Pack’s home base.

“They were in pretty bad shape before, but they look really, really good,” Whitley said. “I’m really proud that we can play on these courts now. They look like courts of a team that has players qualify for the state tournament.”

With the refurbished courts comes a Pam Pack team trying to do something similar — rebuild. With just one senior on a 10-woman roster, Washington continues to struggle in nonconference play, posting a 0-3 record so far, including a 5-4 loss on Tuesday to Currituck County. But on paper, Washington, even against three formidable opponents, has improved a little bit each match.

“Our first match was 0-9, the next match was 2-7 and this one was 4-5, so we’ve definitely been improving every single match we’ve played,” Whitley said after Tuesday’s game. “And we’ve played some decent competition. New Bern is very strong and then we had a solid match with Edenton. I’m hoping for that one to be a little bit closer the second time around now that we’ve got some experience playing good teams. (Washington rematches Edenton Holmes at home on Sept. 16.)

“We work on doubles a little bit more than we do singles, but doubles is really where you win matches.”

Individually, three matches in, singles has yet to find its rhythm, posting a 4-12 record overall, but it’s been Mary Grace Wilder, a sophomore playing No. 6 singles, who has really played to her potential. Wilder is responsible for two of the team’s four singles wins, including a tough 6-4, 4-6, 12-10 victory over Abigail Stanley of Edenton Holmes. Whitley has seen development in virtually every part of her game compared to last season.

“Overall, since last season, Mary Grace has improved so much,” Whitley said. “Her movement is better, her strokes are better and her all-around game has just improved so much since last year.”

And while having yet to pick up a singles victory, No. 1 Danielle Duckwall, a senior, and No. 2 Logan Crisp, a junior, both played close matches against the best Currituck County had to offer, forcing tiebreakers in the second set.

Make no mistake about it. The demanding nonconference Slate Whitley schedules is no accident. Rather, it is preparing her players for what’s expected to be a very competitive, yet winnable Eastern Plains Conference ahead.

“These girls need to see these solid players like this to know that there’s actual competition,” Whitley said. “Even though it hurts to lose, it’s still good for them because you get better by playing people who are better than you. Every match is a learning experience for them.”

Last season, Washington finished with an overall record of 5-7, but finished around the middle of the table in conference play. Despite the team’s apparent youth, the goal has remained the same — a conference title, one that will hopefully open the door for playoff success down the road.

The Pam Pack will suit up for its first conference game on Tuesday when the team plays host to Farmville Central.