Catholic's Mark Cassis lost in the No. 1 singles finals to St. Joe's Max Meade but has beaten Meade twic this spring.
Charleston Catholic's Claire Hamilton won a Class AA-A state title at No. 2 singles last year.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston Catholic tennis championships have become a rite of spring over much of the past decade.
The Fighting Irish boys have won state Class AA-A titles in eight of the last nine years, including the last seven. The girls have caught up, winning the last five.
The Irish begin their quest for another double title in the Region 4 tournament at Parkersburg City Park. First serve is 4 p.m. Thursday for a regional that may go into Friday.
The region includes Poca, whose girls finished a point behind state runner-up Wheeling Central at last year's state tournament, and Parkersburg Catholic, whose girls were showing signs of a breakthrough season. But the Crusaders are playing without No. 1 singles runner-up Ariel Shulman, who has moved to a tennis academy in Florida.
The Dots have hit their own pothole - OK, make that a sinkhole. Crater, even.
Citing a rule that Charleston Catholic's girls had not played enough matches within the region, regional director Jay Carter - also a tennis rules interpreter - declared that the Irish players would not be included among the four seeds in each position.
That meant anybody, regardless of seeding status, could face an Irish player in any round. For instance, the top seed in the No. 1 singles position could face Catholic's Claire Hamilton, with the winner going to next week's state tournament and the loser staying home.
Poca's Molly Ballard drew that short straw.
The senior would have been the top seed based on her regional record of 13-0. She missed the Catholic match (wisdom teeth), so there was no head-to-head with Hamilton.
But Hamilton, the overwhelming No. 2 singles champ last year, would have been the second seed, in all likelihood. They likely would meet in the finals, not the quarters, and both would have gone on to the state tournament.
"It's just a shame," said Poca coach Kim Sigman. "It's like Serena Williams and Venus Williams are playing in the first round."
That's not all.
Senior Courtney Mobley, Poca's No. 2, faces a similar early impediment in Catholic's Christina Centofanti. And then the No. 1 doubles team of Ballard and Mobley will get an early look at Catholic's top doubles team, Hamilton and Danielle Sadd.
Poca scored six points in last year's state tournament, and faces a real possibility of having six wiped out with the regional draw.
"It's unfortunate for the rest of the field," said Catholic coach David Sadd. "It compromises the integrity of the draw."
Danielle Sadd surprised her father/coach with her return to scholastic tennis. She plays at No. 3, while Jenny Borman plays No. 4.
Centofanti and Ellie Grubb play in No. 2 doubles, with Borman and Anna Whelan at No. 3. The lineup consists of all seniors except for Whelan.
The rest of the Dots' lineup consists of sophomore Erin Carnefix at No. 3 singles and junior Cheyenne McNeil at No. 4. Those two make up the No. 2 doubles team, with junior Mandee Young and Taylor Cox at No. 3.
In another long, strange story, Catholic's boys were seeded (Hint: part of that saga hinges on whether Sherman has/had a tennis team. No joke.). Again the Irish could finish 1-2 in the state tournament if they were allowed to field two teams.
"I wouldn't want to try to make this team," David Sadd said.
Mark Cassis is the Irish's top boys player and should get another bout with St. Joseph's Max Meade. Meade defeated Cassis in the 2012 state final, but Cassis owns two wins this spring.
Seniors fill out the rest of the singles roster: Scott Standish at No. 2, Jad Malas at No. 3 and Tanner Whipkey at No. 4. Cassis and Malas is Catholic's No. 1 doubles team, Standish and senior Zach Casto are at No. 2 and Ben Canfield and junior Noah Cable are at No. 3.
Herbert Hoover and Sissonville also are in the AA region.
George Washington, whose boys were Class AAA runners-up last spring, begins its play in Region 3 at noon Thursday at the Schoenbaum Courts at Kanawha City Community Center. Capital, Riverside and Ripley also will play in that region, which stretches southward to Princeton and Greenbrier East.
The Patriots downed defending champion Huntington in the Mountain State Athletic Conference championships last week. GW showed a solid singles lineup in No. 1 Ryan Massinople, No. 2 Zack Koenig, No. 3 Nick Koenig and No. 4 Thomas McIntosh.
Huntington, defending state champ on both sides, still headlines the two-day AAA Region 4 tournament, which begins at 9 a.m. Thursday at Ritter Park in Huntington. Officials will try to get the field whittled down to semifinals by the end of the day, with the rest played at a time to be determined Friday.
The Highlanders still have defending No. 1 champ Hunter Tubert, who is still just a sophomore. Tubert beat Massinople in the MSAC final, 8-3. On the girls side, Cassie Mercer is back to lead a deep squad.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.