Despite Changes, Godwin, Deep Run Rivalry Intact
By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer
The realignment of the Virginia High School League this year — based on the number of students who attend a particular school — has brought changes to all of the sports, and that includes tennis, which got under way last week.
The new setup now means that not all schools in the Richmond area will be competing for the same championship as in the past, when the Central Region was composed of all the big schools that led to the Group AAA title.
Schools are grouped from 6A to 2A in the Richmond area now, with 6A being the largest and 2A the smallest.
But one rivalry will remain, since Deep Run and Mills Godwin are both in the 5A division and will be competing for the state championship in that group. However, only one of them will advance past the regional level to the state tournament.
Godwin has dominated the girls’ highest division, winning eight of the past 12 titles and beating Deep Run in the final last spring. Deep Run and Godwin are also the perennial boys’ champions, although neither qualified for the state tournament in 2013.
That left the door open for Douglas Freeman on the boys’ side, and the Rebels will be a factor again this season.
The Godwin and Deep Run girls met March 20 in a season-opening match at Deep Run, with the Wildcats pulling out a 5-4 victory. But the Eagles were missing one of their top six players in junior Elizabeth Dudley, who is out with a high ankle sprain.
The teams split the six singles matches, with Deep Run claiming two of the three doubles to clinch it.
“I think we looked really good,” said Deep Run coach Maria Sorkin. “Our doubles are coming along. That’s how we won the match. Our third doubles won their match to win it. But it was definitely a close match.”
The rematch will be April 29 at Godwin, and “it will be tough when [Dudley] comes back.”
Godwin coach Mark Seidenberg is hoping to have Dudley, as well as senior Sophie Linnell (knee surgery), back the next time the teams meet.
A third meeting could come in the Conference 11 tournament, and another in the regionals. But only one team will qualify for the state tournament, rather than two as had been the case under the previous arrangement.
“We could have to play them in the semifinals of the conference tournament,” said Sorkin. “So, one of us might not even make it to the regionals. I don’t think it’s fair to do it like this, but that’s the way it’s been set up.”
The Eagles edged the Wildcats 5-3 in last spring’s Group AAA championship match. It was their fifth meeting of the season.
“You’ve got to play the way they ask you to,” Seidenberg said of the new format. “It would be nice if we had an opportunity again. I think we’re two of the better teams in the state, and it would be pretty neat to see what would happen in the state final again.”
Deep Run features freshman Nina Sorkin at the top, pushing former No. 1 Caroline Mosberg to No. 2. The next four are subject to change, but for the time being Emily Sheppard is No. 3, followed by Abby Mainwaring, Caroline Zukowsky and Maggie Noonan.
“We have some girls that have really worked hard on their games,” said coach Sorkin. “We try to have challenge matches every couple of weeks and see who’s actually working harder on their games. Surprisingly, some of them are playing year round now.”
Junior Keerthana Shankar has moved into the top spot for Godwin, with freshman Anna Sidhu taking over at No. 2. Senior Jackie Dillon is No. 3, followed by sophomore Morgan Fuqua, freshman Anna Brodzik and junior Ara McCarty.
When Dudley and Linnell return, the bottom third of the lineup will likely undergo some changes.
“Deep Run played really well,” said Seidenberg. “They’re obviously really, really strong up top. We got one game in the first two singles. I thought our girls played really good doubles. It came down to No. 3 doubles and they just played better than we did.”
After winning three straight state titles, Deep Run went through a rebuilding year with a young team and wasn’t a factor in 2013. That experience may have helped the Wildcats improve enough this spring to challenge Douglas Freeman and Godwin.
Deep Run edged Freeman 5-4 Thursday after knocking off Godwin 6-3 in the opener on March 20.
“We’re hoping to build off last season,” said coach Beth Berry, who was an assistant last season to Salman Parvaiz. “Since that was a growing season for us, we were a pretty young team, we can build on that experience.”
The Wildcats have also benefitted from having three new players, who moved into the area in the past year. That includes brothers Grant and Chad Ring, and sophomore Rahul Jilakara, who plays No. 2 singles. Grant (a senior) is No. 3 and Chad (a junior) No. 6.
Junior Nick Sorkin, Nina’s brother, is at the top of the lineup, while junior Grant Rabalais is No. 4 and sophomore Chris Bone No. 5.
Among the private schools, St. Christopher’s appears to have the edge on rival Collegiate, having already beaten the Cougars 6-3 on March 24. The Saints also defeated perennially strong Cape Henry Collegiate 5-4 in their opener.
Carter Hayes has taken over the No. 1 spot for St. Christopher’s, while Andrew Reed steps into that role at Collegiate.
Even though she’s only a freshman, Nina Sorkin appears to be the class of the area this spring. Shankar, Godwin’s top player, didn’t win a game in their matchup. The only player who would have challenged her, Alyssa Hahn of Douglas Freeman, is playing lacrosse not tennis.
On the boys side, Shyam Venkatasubramanian, a senior at Henrico, and perhaps newcomer Casper Cosmo (exchange student from Sweden) of James River, look like the top players, although Hayes and Justin Cerny of Trinity Episcopal are also candidates.