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Today's Group 4A girls singles tennis championship match between Jamestown's Anna Walter and Midlothian's Stephanie Olson proved to be a déjà vu scenario.
After defeating Olson 6-0, 6-0 in the 4A South championship match on June 2, Walter put on a similar performance today at the Virginia High School League Group 4A Tennis Championships at Liberty University, defeating Olson again by a 6-0, 6-0 final — this time for a state title.
"I played the same girl in the regional finals so I kind of knew what to expect just because I've seen her play before," Walter said of Olson. "We basically had some strong balls going early. We started off trying to be very consistent as usual. We were also trying to battle the heat out here, which was a factor. I played my game and stuck with it and pulled it out."
Before Walter reached Olson in the championship match, she had to first get past Dominion's Dominique Huynh in the semifinal round.
Walter and Huynh started the match with high intensity, which was quickly tempered as the heat and humidity began to rise. Once both players started showing minor signs of fatigue, Walter received a pep talk from Jamestown coach Karen Johnson urging her to keep her energy high throughout the match.
The Jamestown junior responded, cruising for a 6-0 first set victory that gave way to a 6-1 second set win that sent Walter into the championship match.
Nearly two hours after Walter's first match concluded, she stepped onto the court for her chance at a state title against Olson.
Walter quickly got down 30-0 in the first game of the match before battling back to force a deuce, which she won two points later. Although both players battled through the next three games with long rallies and impressive winners, Walter ultimately controlled the pace of play and built up a 4-0 first-set advantage.
The final two games of the first set were closed in style as Walter delivered a booming service ace to scoring the game-clinching point in the fifth game. The sixth game ended with a statement play by Walter, who proved her dominance on the court with heart and hustle.
Olson took an aggressive approach to Walter during the final point of the sixth game. Olson repeatedly sent cross-court forehands and backhands in an attempt to pull Walter out of position.
The plan seemed to work as Olson played a crossing back-hand to the right side of the court, which forced Walter to lunge for the shot just to keep it in play. Walter reached the ball, sending it sailing high above the net in perfect position for Olson to secure the point with an overhead winner.
Knowing what was coming, Walter sprinted to her right just in time to catch up with Olson's slam. Walter once again lunged to her right, this time sending the ball sailing over the head of Olson and landing just within the baseline for set point.
"That was totally Anna reading, anticipating and hustling," Johnson said. "That's her whole approach to her game at this time. It's fantastic to see it all come together."
The second set proved much less stressful for Walter, easily winning every game in the set except for the opening game, which was won in a deuce.
When the final point of the match was secured, Walter was met by a leaping hug from teammate Alisha Kohli, celebrating Walter's newly acquired state championship.
"It means so much. I worked the entire season for the postseason. To get here and make it to the finals again, it's just so exciting," Walter said. "I'm just so happy."
Walter's win comes after a 6-3, 6-3 loss to John Handley’s Kathryn Bock in 2014 at the state championship in Lynchburg.