Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend

Wildcats face strong tests

Class 5 juggernaut still unbeaten amid tough challenges

- BY ZACH JOACHIM

Deep Run’s boys, girls tennis teams will again vie for titles in return to court.

Winners of three of the past four Class 5 state titles, a young Deep Run girls tennis team is learning to play with high expectatio­ns behind the leadership of senior No. 1 Olivia Wright.

Wright, a Providence recruit, is a two-time doubles state champion and 2019 first team All-Metro honoree. Her Wildcats (5-0) are continuing their winning ways in 2021, albeit with a couple close calls in 5-4 wins over Mills Godwin and Maggie Walker.

“She’s been a great leader by calming the girls down and showing them that with hard work and dedication, that we can do it and act as a team and try and achieve our goal this year,” Deep Run head coach Maria Sorkin said of Wright.

The Wildcats’ state championsh­ip run was interrupte­d only by a runner-up finish to George Marshall in 2017. Sorkin said she tries to help her players focus on individual goals and improving their style of play, rather than worrying about team accomplish­ments and what the program has achieved in the past.

“Just trying to keep them grounded and to improve on themselves instead of just focusing on winning,” Sorkin said.

The Wildcats had to pull out a dramatic doubles victory to beat Godwin a day after the singles matches were played because the contest was postponed due to rain. Sorkin said her girls were worried about winning, until she told them to have a “warrior mentality.”

“We’re not going to worry, because if you play scared and afraid to lose, you won’t win,” Sorkin said. “So I’m trying to instill that in the girls of just going for it.”

Sorkin said that mentality paid off in a 5-4 win over Maggie Walker. The Wildcats were down 4-2 after singles play, and needed all three doubles matches to claim the team victory.

“I saw them really step up and show that they believe,” Sorkin said of the Maggie Walker match.

Past Wright, Sorkin said freshman Caroline Nam, who has yet to lose a match, has really stood out to her with a tenacious mentality beyond her years. Junior Alexandra Perkins, who didn’t have much singles experience in high school competitio­n, has impressed Perkins as well and “really stepped up.” Another freshman, Rosalyn Kara, has excelled playing first line doubles with Wright, her maturity has stood out to Sorkin.

Sorkin added the close matches have been welcome from a developmen­tal standpoint.

“You really see how good your team is when you’re challenged,” she said. “It’s great to see that they’re being pushed to see what they’re made of.” Others to watch:

Mills Godwin is 2-4, with 9-0 wins over Hermitage and Henrico, and losses to Maggie Walker, Douglas Freeman and J.R. Tucker in addition to the Wildcats. Seniors Diana Kirilov and Allyson Wang headline for the Eagles.

Maggie Walker GS is 4-2. Returning starters Kirby Westerfiel­d (10-3 in 2019), Grace Liu (19-1) and Naadia Rashid lead the way for the Green Dragons.

Douglas Freeman 4-0 since a season-opening loss to Deep Run. The Mavericks feature three juniors — Cindy Xie, Isabelle Hevron and Grace Johnson.

J.R. Tucker fell 5-4 to Maggie Walker in its only loss of the season. Coach Jesse Gauthier said Tucker is the deepest its been in years with a talented group of underclass­men behind junior No. 1 Kyla Terrell.

Glen Allen is 3-1 and is led by three returners — junior Anijah Burgo and seniors Darby Atwell and Mandy Lee.

Cosby went 19-3 and was the Class 6 runner-up in 2019, the Titans feature sophomore Katelyn Hubbard and junior Hayley Glen at No. 1 and 2 and the top doubles spots.

Hanover has won the past three team and doubles state titles for Class 4. The Hawks are led by senior No. 1 Raine Weis, who went 24-1 in 2019 en route to second-team All-Metro honors.

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 ?? JOE MAHONEY/TIMES-DISPATCH ?? Deep Run’s Olivia Wright has been a firstteam All-Metro selection twice and has won a pair of state team titles with the Wildcats.
JOE MAHONEY/TIMES-DISPATCH Deep Run’s Olivia Wright has been a firstteam All-Metro selection twice and has won a pair of state team titles with the Wildcats.

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