Doubles tennis is a sport that relies on trust, chemistry and communication just as much as talent. Nobody knows this better than Western Albemarle seniors Claire Park and Fran Clifton
The two have been partners at Western all four years, a rarity in high school tennis. They credit that unity for their success on the court.
"It's huge," Park said.
"You have to cover the whole court and move around and if you don't know what the other person is going to do, you're going to miss," Clifton added.
The familiarity the girls have from playing alongside each other gives them an edge on their opponents from the start.
"When you get into tough situations and you can't always have your coach there to tell you what to go on, you have to stay positive and all that other stuff. It's really nice to have someone who gets you," Clifton explained.
Park and Clifton are a big part of a Western team that's won three straight Jefferson District titles and was a state semi-finalist last year under coach Ellen Markowitz.
"They have kind of a telekinetic relationship, they have fabulous chemistry, they pep each other up, they dance. They just play really, really well together," Markowitz said.
Side by side the last four seasons, the girls are about to go very separate ways. They'll focus solely on education at the next level, as part of the premier in-state rivalry. Clifton will be staying close to home at Virginia, where her father also attended. Park, meanwhile, will follow in her parents footsteps and become a Virginia Tech Hokie.
The duo say their school choices are perfect fits for their personalities.
"She's more of a Tech person and I'm a UVa person," Clifton said.
"Yeah I couldn't see myself at UVa and I can't see her at Tech," Park added.
"I can't see her at UVA," Clifton said with laugh.
"No, definitely not going to Tech," Park said of her teammate.