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HIGH SCHOOL TENNIS: Final pairing eludes Mahon, Christensen

LYNCHBURG—James Monroe’s Walt Mahon and Culpeper’s Dylan Christensen both settled down after slow starts, but it wasn’t enough in a pair of 3A state semifinal tennis singles losses Thursday at Liberty University.

Mahon, a senior, forced a third set against Spotswood’s Joe Dillenbeck in an eventual 6–3, 3–6, 6–4 loss.

Christensen, a junior, had some early match jitters and dropped his first set, 6–1, against Blacksburg’s Thomas Ducker. He battled back in the second set before losing, 6–4.

Ducker defeated Dillenbeck in the final, 6–0 and 6–1.

“I just started to slow it down and play more consistent, and I started kind of rolling my serve over a little better,” Mahon said. “I didn’t really adjust too much. I just kind of got in my groove, you know.”

Said Christensen: “The first set I was kind of tight and nervous and shots weren’t going in, so I lost that really bad. Then my coach [Sam Kang] came over after I lost my first set and just told me to go for it and play like me and whack the ball. I just kept that in mind, and I just thought I didn’t have anything to lose in that second set and put it all out there.”

While Mahon tried to maintain a constant playing style and mentality throughout his match, change didn’t seem to bother Dillenbeck.

Dillenbeck went with a different sartorial look for each game. He went with a cap, then without one. He changed caps and shirts on multiple occasions.

His play was very consistent, however. His biggest asset was his powerful serve, but Mahon did a good job of holding his own.

If not for a few uncharacteristic errors in the first set, things might have been different.

“That kid was tough, and [Walt] fought,” JM coach George Christoforatos said. “The second set he was right there. The first set he had a couple of great opportunities and didn’t cash them out, and the double [faults] hurt him in the service game. I’m telling you, we were about two shots away from winning that match.”

Mahon finished the season 20–3 with a 3A East Region championship. His career record over four years, including doubles, was 146–12.

Christensen said he will use this season’s valuable playoff experience to lead him into his senior season.

“It’s been great. It’s a whole new level at regionals and states. It’s been real fun,” Christensen said.

Christensen knows he has some things to work on to make the next step in the region and state competitions, but he’s up for the challenge.

“I definitely need to work on my mental game,” he said. “That’s a big issue I need to fix. I can be better at the net and on the backhand side. That’s about it. I feel pretty confident in my forehand. I’ll get that better, but I need to work on the other stuff a lot more.”

Nathan Warters: 540/374-5442