GC's Smith, Ferguson win region tennis titles

Pat Kenney • May 24, 2013 at 11:50 PM

WISE — Blue skies made for a Blue Devils kind of day in the Region D tennis tournament Friday at Virginia-Wise.

Gate City’s John Ferguson and Rosa Smith won their respective singles titles to advance to the VHSL Group A competition at Radford University the first week in June.

Ferguson defeated Castlewood’s Tyler Austin 6-0, 6-0 to claim the boys’ title.

Austin made the final after beating Sean Helbert of Twin Valley 6-1, 6-1 in the semifinals. Ferguson upended J.I. Burton’s Tanner Crowder 6-4, 6-1 in the semifinals.

Smith downed Eastside’s Lauren Riner 6-1, 6-0 to earn the girls’ singles crown.

Riner beat Grundy’s Candace Fletcher 5-7, 6-0, 7-5 and Smith fended off Wise Central’s Mackenzie Lawson 6-1, 7-6 (7-1) in the semifinal matchups.

Ferguson’s ability to return Crowder’s heavy serve was a key to his victory in the semifinals.

“I felt my best chance against Tanner was to return his serve and get into the point with my groundstrokes,” said Ferguson, a senior. “I just tried to return everything he hit and let him make the mistakes.”

Ferguson was in a groove in the final against Austin.

“He was really hitting his spots and the lines,” Austin said. “He was really on against me.”

Riner rallied after dropping the first set to Fletcher and moved on to meet Smith.

Smith, a state singles finalist last year as a sophomore, got pushed by Lawson in the semifinals.

“In the second set Mackenzie really started playing well,” Smith said. “She really made me work hard for it.”

It took a tiebreaker, but Smith was able to survive and advance to meet Riner in the final for a second straight year.

Riner battled most of the match but couldn’t match Smith’s groundstrokes and eventually fell victim to unforced errors.

“She was just too consistent,” said Riner, who will play for Emory & Henry College next year. “Rosa just hit so many good shots today.”

Smith felt her day was well worth the effort.

“It was good to have tough matches today,” she said. “As we move deeper into postseason, the players I meet will be better and better.

“I have to learn to be more consistent and more patient as the competition gets tougher.”

The Region D team and doubles competitions will be next week at Virginia-Wise. The girls’ semifinals are Tuesday and the boys’ on Wednesday.

Girls and boys team and doubles finals will be held Thursday, beginning at 2 p.m.

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