Poca makes its push (with video)
Most of the usual suspects lead the team standings after the first day of the state tennis tournament, but an unexpected entry is dotting the top of the girls Class AA-A field.
Yes, that's Poca sitting up there with favored Charleston Catholic, both with five points. The Dots had a nearly perfect day, winning all five matches for which they qualified.
"We're kind of new on the radar," said third-year coach Kim Sigman. "We have some country girls who can play. We had one girl with a brother [on the boys team] and she thought, 'Hey, I could beat him.' She started playing and some friends followed her. She's our No. 1 now."
That No. 1 is Molly Ballard, who advanced to the semifinals for the second year in a row. She will play Ariel Shuman of Parkersburg Catholic today as finalists will be determined in all seven positions.
Play resumes at 8 a.m. today at the Schoenbaum Courts in Kanawha City (AA-A) and Coonskin Park (AAA).
Ballard gave up just one game in her two matches, while Courtney Mobley gave up two in her rounds at No. 2. Ballard and Julia Celorio rung up Bluefield 8-1 in the first round of No. 1 doubles.
"The only thing that surprised me was the scores," Sigman said. "I thought we had the ability to win matches, but I didn't know we could win 8-0, 8-1.
While the Dots already have matched their 2011 state tournament total of five points, they know their odds are long on staying with Catholic. They finished second to a perfect Irish team in regionals, failing to qualify at the No. 3 and No. 4 singles, plus No. 3 doubles.
But the Dots wouldn't have to see the Irish in any position until the finals, and look to pick up a few points today. Mobley faces Wheeling Central's Joanna Capito, Ballard and Celerio take on a Liberty Harrison team and the No. 2 team of Mobley and Molly Arthur starts play against Bluefield.
Catholic recorded perfect five-point days in both boys and girls, with Bluefield's boys keeping pace for now. George Washington's boys won all their matches to stay with loaded Huntington, and will take a shot at upsetting the Highlanders in the top levels today.
GW's girls suffered a rough day at Coonskin, getting eliminated in the top three singles spots. Parkersburg and University emerged as the challengers to defending champion Huntington, as all three had perfect days. The Big Reds are technically ahead with six points, a function of having to play a first-round match in the 12-team No. 1 doubles bracket.
University is already out at No. 1 singles, as Ally Rees had the misfortune of colliding with Huntington's Cassie Mercer in the quarterfinals (8-0, if you're guessing). Mercer will face Wheeling Park senior C.J. Petrini, a senior who stunned GW freshman Kirsten White 8-2.
Petrini called it one of her most consistent matches, and noticed the talented White showing her youth at times. White was visibly upset afterward, more at herself than anything.
"You could tell she was less experienced and didn't keep composure, maybe," Petrini said. "That's a big part of it, the mental game. I have [experienced that]."
On the other side of the No. 1 bracket, Morgantown veteran Stephanie Arnold takes on Parkersburg's Sloane Prince. At No. 2, the Big Reds' Cassandra Powell will play University's Meghan Zerkel, while Huntington's Kate Huck faces Hurricane freshman Kayla McKnight.
McKnight survived one of Thursday's best matches, rallying from a 7-6 deficit to win 9-7 over Morgantown's Abby Rosiello. She came back from 15-40 to hold serve at 8-7, then broke to win the match.
In boys AAA, GW's Zack Koenig will battle Huntington freshman phenom Hunter Tubert, while Ryan Massinople battles former No. 1 champ Robert Skolik at No. 2. The Patriots also face the Highlanders in No. 4 singles and No. 3 doubles.
"I play with him four nights a week, so I really know him well," Massinople said of Skolik. "I think I've got a shot at it. If I play my game, it should be a fun match."
Opposite Koenig and Tubert in the No. 1 bracket is a serious contender in German exchange student Max Schulz Mullensiefen, playing for Morgantown. He plays Grant Davis of Martinsburg in the first semifinal.
Mullensiefen made quick work of Capital's Joe Michael, who was coming off his 8-3 revenge win over Hurricane's Reid Bailey in the first round. Like Tubert, Mullensiefen did not lose a game Thursday.
"The kid's a monster," Michael said. "I was expecting it, though. There's nothing I can really say. He's got a monster serve, and that helps his game a ton."
In the boys top AA-A singles, Catholic's Mark Cassis plays Oak Hill's Matt Holliday, with Max Meade of St. Joseph and Nick Conforti of Madonna in the other semi. Irish players won their four matches by a combined 32-4.
Defending girls No. 1 champion Mary Emma Maddox of Catholic takes on sophomore Carly Killmer of Shady Spring, who ousted Natalie Capito of Wheeling Central in a 7-4 tiebreaker.
The remaining quarterfinals are pro-set matches, with semifinals expanded to best-of-three sets.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or email@example.com, or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.