The toughest thing for the Western Albemarle girls tennis team Monday was figuring out where to play.
After rain forced the Warriors off the outdoor courts in Crozet, WAHS cruised to a 5-1 Region 2 tournament victory over Kettle Run indoors at Boar's Head.
Western cruised to victories in the Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 5 singles matches, setting up an opportunity for No. 2 Cari Bland to clinch it. But Bland found herself locked in the hardest fought match of the day, going to three sets with the Cougars' Hailey Nettles.
Bland commanded the first set, winning 6-2, before Nettles responded with a 4-6 victory in the second. With nearly ever spectator focused on their court, Bland's strong forehand eventually became too much for Nettles, and the Western standout pulled it out 6-4.
"It was really exciting hearing everyone cheer," Bland said. "The guys came over to watch and cheer and then my teammates are always supportive. When I lost the second set I got really nervous and down on myself, but I came back, so it was great."
The victory helped Western improve to 14-1 and advance to the regional finals. They will have to wait to find out who and when they play again after the matches on the other side of the bracket were rained out, but the Warriors were happy to celebrate moving one step closer to their ultimate goal.
"We're looking forward to going to states ... hopefully," Bland said.
Western set the tone early on Court No. 1, with Emily Kochard easily dispatching Kettle Run's Jessica Doyle, 6-2, 6-0. Megan Weight was able to add a 6-4, 6-2 victory versus Nicole Starkey at No. 3 and Claire Park beat Megan Gronp 7-5, 6-2 at No. 4. Fran Clifton's 6-3, 6-3 victory at No. 5 left it up to Bland to avoid sending it to doubles.
"We had a couple of not so close matches," WAHS coach Ellen Markowitz said. "Emily won fairly easily and was the first match done. She played just really strong and steady."
The coach hopes her team can continue to play well enough to advance.
"Every match is tough and we are very happy to be in this position to play another day," Markowitz said. "We're fortunate that everybody played tough at the right time. The nerves can start acting up when you get to the playoff matches. They played steady tennis and did a great job when they needed to."