Gate City's Rosa Smith returns a ball in her singles match against George Mason's Kynadi Mauney during Monday's VHSL 2A girls team tennis semifinals at Weber City Elementary School.
WEBER CITY — Gate City's doubles team of Karson Light and Hannah Spivey earned the clinching point Monday in the Lady Blue Devils convincing 5-2 win over George Mason in the VHSL 2A girls team tennis semifinals at Weber City Elementary School.
The victory sends Gate City into the state finals on Saturday in Radford. The Lady Blue Devils will play the winner of today's semifinal match between Wilson Memorial and Graham.
Gate City's win was even sweeter because the Lady Blue Devils had lost to the Lady Mustangs in last year's state semifinals. George Mason went on to claim the state championship.
"Doubles is our strength," said Gate City coach Delonda Spivey. "I always feel good about our chances of earning the doubles points when the match is on the line."
George Mason opened strong with wins in both the No. 1 and No. 2 singles. Lady Mustangs No. 1 Kynadi Mauney downed Rosa Smith 6-3, 7-5, coming back from 0-3 and 2-5 deficits in the deciding second set.
The Lady Devils' Taylor Carter evened the match with her 6-1, 6-3 win over Dana Semberg at No. 4.
Carrinton Mauney then downed Emily Smith 6-1, 6-2 at No. 2 singles to put the Lady Mustangs on top 2-1.
In what turned out to be the crucial match of the day, Gate City's Emily Hensley defeated Peggy Brozi 6-3, 6-4 at No. 3 singles in a match that took two hours. Hensley's victory evened the match at 2.
Last year, Brozi defeated Hensley in a three-hour marathon that earned George Mason that 5-0 win over the Lady Blue Devils.
"I learned a lot from that match last year," said Hensley, a senior. "Today I played more angles and tried to attack her forehand, which I felt was her weak side."
Close behind, Light and Spivey were cruising to victories in their singles matches.
Light beat Caiti Hof 6-2, 6-0 to put Gate City up 3-2. When Spivey disposed of Lauren Meinhart 6-0, 6-2 at the No. 6 singles spot, the Lady Blue Devils had a commanding 4-2 advantage heading into the deciding doubles matches.
"I thought everything came down to Hensley's win at the No. 3 singles," said George Mason coach Alexandra Ware. "She worked so hard and deserved it. That changed the momentum of the whole match."
Gate City's coach concurred.
"Hensley's win was a game-changer," Spivey said.
A two-point deficit entering doubles play was a daunting task for the Lady Mustangs.
"Knowing that we had to sweep the doubles really changed our frame of mind," Ware said "It was just too tough."
All eyes went to the No. 3 doubles match between Light and Hannah Spivey and George Mason's Hof and Meinhart.
The Gate City duo raced out to an early 5-2 lead and had to fight back a determined effort by Hof and Meinhart before winning the first set 6-4.
"We knew everyone was counting on us," Light said. "We kind of let down a little in the first set, but we fixed that."
Light and Spivey raced through the second set 6-0, delighting the Gate City fans on hand.
"We wanted to win that point so bad," said Hannah Spivey. "We knew we were going to get it, we just had to correct the mistakes we were making in the first set."
With the match decided, the other two doubles matches retired with Gate City ahead in both.
Now it's on to Radford and a chance for the Lady Blue Devils to claim their eighth state team championship since 2003. Their last win was in 2012 over Wilson Memorial.
"We've got players on this team who have left Radford with a state title and some who have left with a loss," said Delonda Spivey. "They all know what it takes and they have the determination and drive to win. We'll see what happens."