Since they lack significant experience or success at this level, it's difficult to imagine the contingent of local players bringing back many first-place medals from the state tennis championships.
But they could create danger for more heralded opponents, some of whom are looking to etch their names even deeper into the Virginia High School League Book of Records.
The Group AAA individual tournament is set for Thursday through Saturday at Jefferson District Park in Northern Virginia, while the Group AA and A singles playoffs for boys and girls are Thursday at Radford University.
Friday and Saturday, the Group A boys and girls and AA girls will square off in team play and doubles at Radford University, while the AA boys will do so at Virginia Tech.
GROUP AAA BOYS
Menchville's Graham Wilson, among the best players in Peninsula District history, has ruled the Eastern Region for two years, never losing a singles or doubles match with Jake Fields to an in-region opponent.
Now Wilson, a Thomas Nelson Community College-bound tennis and track standout, hopes to take the next step by winning a match at state.
The first-round draw rotation was relatively kind to him in singles. Thursday morning, he will face future Bridgewater College player Brandon Larsen of Woodbridge, the Northwest Region runner-up, in a quarterfinal. Wilson, a two-star recruit, is 19th among Virginia seniors by tennisrecruiting.net. Larsen, a one-star, is 24th on that list.
The winner will be the underdog in a semifinal Friday against Cosby's Brett Moorhead or Herndon's Philip Nelson.
Virginia Tech-bound senior Hunter Koontz hasn't been as invincible this season as last, losing a pair of matches to Mills Godwin's Edgar Vitkovski. But still, having led Deep Run to the AAA team crown last weekend in Newport News despite one of those defeats, he has a chance to repeat the feat he accomplished last year: winning the "triple crown" of team, singles and doubles titles. Mary Washington recruit Evan Charles again is his doubles partner.
Vitkovski and junior lefty Michael Holt, the Central Region runners-up to Koontz and Charles, will provide Wilson and Fields with formidable first-round doubles opposition Thursday afternoon.
GROUP AA BOYS
After two near-misses, Chiraag Shetty at last earned his ticket to the New River Valley by rolling through the Region I tournament. With his heavy topspin forehand and cat-like speed, the slender Tabb junior looks like the favorite in his semifinal. He'll face hard-hitting sophomore Wesley Wong of Freedom High in Loudoun County, who upset expected Region II champion Kaleb Nguyen of Sherando.
A way to compare young players is by looking at tennisrecruiting.net, whose rankings are based on U.S. Tennis Association results. It lists Shetty as No. 9 among Virginia 11th-graders and as a three-star recruit (blue-chip players are the best, followed by five-star, four-star and so on). Wong is a two-star player, listed 14th among state sophomores.
Assuming he stays healthy, Shetty could be the state favorite next year. But the Everest-sized obstacle in his path this year would come in the final: Roanoke-area senior Patrick O'Keefe of the Salem Spartans.
VHSL tennis records date to 1924, but no boy ever has won the maximum of four singles titles in any group. O'Keefe is favored to do so Thursday – and on the same Radford courts that will be his college home. Then, he and fellow four-star Will Drougas are likely to win their third consecutive AA doubles crown.
Of O'Keefe's five victories in individual championship matches, none has gone three sets. The last two singles finals have been 6-1, 6-1 and 6-0, 6-1.
The team semifinals are Thursday morning. Jamestown, which lost plenty of key components from the squad that captured its first state team title last season, was unlucky in drawing Salem in the first round on the Hokies' hard courts.
With O'Keefe, Drougas and their oustanding younger brothers – Harrison O'Keefe and three-star freshman Michael Drougas – the Spartans are virtually unbeatable in the top four. Salem hasn't won the team title since 1994, but the Spartans are primed to end that drought.
Friday will be arduous for the Eagles' 1-4 guys: JJ Wilroy, Miles Neilson, Sam Ross and Michael Reso. Perhaps No. 5 Logan Yowell and No. 6 Neel Ronvelia could fare best, since they won't be facing opposition quite as formidable.
"We'll have to play great just to get a point," Jamestown coach Bob Artis said.
In the doubles semis, which follow the team semis, Lafayette's Cole Fairbanks and senior Chris Ford will get the payoff from their victory over Neilson and Ross in the Region I final.
Making their first state appearance, the Rams' tandem will have an opportunity against a duo from E.C. Glass in Lynchburg: John James and Scottie Taylor. The winners will be significant underdogs to Patrick O'Keefe and Will Drougas, unless Freedom's Wong and Alex Craig pull a semifinal shocker.
GROUP AA GIRLS
Based on her athleticism, intelligence and significant tennis improvement over the last two years, York's Wiktoria Plawska is a future title contender.
As for the present, she's a freshman in a draw with three seniors – including her semifinal opponent, Headley Wilson.
"I'll have to bring my best then," Plawska said.
Wilson, from James Wood High in Winchester, is making her first state singles trip, though she won the 2008 and '09 doubles crowns alongside Kari Pope, who grew up in Windsor and now plays for the U.S. Military Academy. Last season, Wilson registered a victory over eventual AA champ Sarah Moomau of Handley.
The other semifinal pits Hidden Valley's Kristin Harter, a four-time Region IV champion from Roanoke, against Stuarts Draft valedictorian Jessica Miller, a three-time Region III champ. That's a rematch of the '09 title contest, which Harter won 6-3, 6-3.
Plawska also is part of a first-time state doubles combination, joined by Jessica Lee. They'll play Friday afternoon in a semi against Miller and her freshman sister, Elena.
In the team competition, Jamestown and defending champion Hidden Valley will renew their rivalry at 9 a.m. Friday. The Eagles beat Hidden Valley to win their last two titles, in 2005 and '06.
Jamestown hopes to improve upon its showing last year. The Eagles lost a five-hour, 5-4 semifinal to E.C. Glass, which dropped a 5-2 decision to Hidden Valley in the final.
Sophomore Leah Walter must be at her best to compete with Harter at No. 1, and Jamestown's other starters – Abby Hunt, Elizabeth Wallace, Morrow Heard, Joe Foster and Kathy Sharp – also will face challenging matches. But if the Eagles are at their best, they could have an upset opportunity.
GROUP A GIRLS
Despite the disappointment of losing the Region A team final to Rappahannock, a team they beat twice in the regular season, the Mathews Blue Devils still will be represented at state.
Sophomore sisters Amy and Aly Collins will play at 3 p.m. Friday in a doubles semifinal against Bath County's Amelia Walters and Jenny Gutting.
That time is favorable for the sisters' mother, Mathews coach LaDonna Collins, who hopes to see two sports that day.
One of her older daughters, Lindsay, is a key player for the Blue Devils' softball team, which has a 10 a.m. Division 2 semifinal at Radford's Veterans Field against Virginia High of Bristol.
GROUP A BOYS
Appomattox Regional Governor's School of Petersburg won the Region A team and singles titles, but Windsor's combo of Bryce Lawrence and Zach Stenger-Hayden captured the doubles crown.
Making their first state individual appearance, they'll play a semifinal at 3 p.m. Friday at Radford University against Glenvar's Tim Howard, the Region C singles champ, and Nick Trinchere.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times