No. 1 singles player Mark Cassis leads Charleston Catholic's bid for an eighth consecutive Class AA-A boys state championship.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston Catholic tennis coach David Sadd isn't one to dwell on history, regardless of how impressive that history might be.
"I don't really pay attention to what we've accomplished in the past," the Fighting Irish's second-year coach said. "I'm more concerned about what we're trying to accomplish now."
Well, Catholic's boys and girls tennis teams are trying to capture state tournament championships, with the three-day quest beginning today at the Charleston Catholic Athletic Facility on Hillcrest Drive.
That's nothing new for the Irish, who have established a Class AA-A dynasty that is verging on historical proportions.
"I know we've won several [championships] on both sides," Sadd said, "but I never knew the number."
If you're scoring at home, the number is seven straight titles for the Fighting Irish boys and five for the girls. Catholic is creeping up on the state records for consecutive team tennis championships, both held by Parkersburg - 10 in a row for the Big Red boys (1976-85) and seven for the girls (1981-87).
Catholic's teams are primed and ready to add to their streak. The Irish boys and girls are deep with talent and have to be considered the favorites to take the trophies.
"I'm not going to assess our chances, but I don't want to trade my players for anybody," Sadd said.
Catholic's boys are led by Mark Cassis at No. 1 singles. Cassis, a senior, lost to St. Joseph's Max Meade in the state finals last year but has beaten Meade in three meetings this year, including last Friday at the regional meet in Parkersburg.
Also lining up for the Irish boys - the only Class AA-A team on the boys side to qualify in all seven state tournament slots - are Scott Standish at No. 2 singles, Jad Malas at No. 3 singles, Tanner Whipkey at No. 4 singles and the doubles pairings of Cassis-Malas at No. 1, Standish and Zach Casto at No. 2 and Ben Canfield and Noah Cable at No. 3. All are seniors except Cable, a junior.
"The boys have big expectations," Sadd said. "I think that's pretty fair to say."
Catholic's girls are aiming high, too. While not as experienced as the Irish boys, the girls team is also loaded with senior Claire Hamilton leading the way at No. 1 singles. Joining Hamilton in bids for individual titles are junior Christina Centofanti (No. 2 singles), senior Danielle Sadd (No. 3 singles), senior Jenny Borman (No. 4 singles) and the doubles pairings of Hamilton-Sadd at No. 1, Centofanti and senior Ellie Grubb at No. 2 and Borman and senior Anna Whelan at No. 3.
Catholic's girls also have filled all seven tournament slots, a feat matched only in AA-A girls by Bluefield.
GW trying to derail Huntington in AAA
In Class AAA, Huntington's boys and girls teams are both riding modest two-year state championship streaks, and the Highlander girls are prohibitive favorites to make it three in a row.
In AAA boys, though, it might be George Washington's time to reclaim the championship. GW and Huntington squared off twice this year, once in the regular season and again in the Mountain State Athletic Conference tournament finals, and the Patriots emerged victorious both times.
"It should be a good battle," GW coach Chris Luckett said. "Both teams are really competitive."
Luckett said the winning team will be the one that best handles the atmosphere when they take the courts at the Kanawha City Community Center.
"It's a different atmosphere at the state tournament," Luckett said. "My kids are young, and Huntington's got kids back from last year's championship team, but both teams have some inexperience. It'll come down to who comes out to play."
Junior Ryan Massinople plays No. 1 singles for GW and will be hard-pressed to knock off Huntington's Hunter Tubert, who defeated Massinople both times they played this year.
Also lining up for the GW boys are junior Zack Koenig at No. 2 singles, freshman Nick Koenig at No. 3 singles, freshman Thomas McIntosh at No. 4 singles and the doubles teams of Massinople-Zack Koenig at No. 1, Nick Koenig-McIntosh at No. 2 and freshmen Ryan Mullins and Peyton Moses at No. 3.
Huntington also qualified in all seven spots, while Martinsburg, Parkersburg and Washington will be represented in six of them.
On the AAA girls side, Huntington failed to qualify at No. 4 singles and No. 3 doubles, but the Highlanders are still the team to beat.
"Huntington has a very strong team," Luckett said. "Not qualifying at those two slots gives the opportunity for other schools in the state to potentially win those two titles, but they're strong."
Like most observers, Luckett believes Cassie Mercer, the defending state champion and the daughter of Marshall tennis coaches John and Laurie Mercer, should cruise to another AAA girls singles championship.
"Cassie, you can just hand her the trophy, she's that good," Luckett said. "But outside of her, I think it's wide open for other schools to have an opportunity."
With Kristen White at No. 1 singles, Jordyn O'Dell at No. 2 singles, Marie Skaff at No. 3 singles and three doubles teams qualified, George Washington is one of five schools to fill six of the seven slots in AAA girls. The others are Parkersburg, Ripley, University and Washington.
Only one AAA girls team, though, has representation in all seven slots, and that's Hurricane. The Redskins will send out Kayla McKnight at No. 1 singles, Vivian Yao at No. 2 singles, Amber Barr at No. 3 singles, Ashley White at No. 4 singles and three doubles teams.
Other Kanawha Valley schools with players in the tournament are:
AA-A boys, Poca's Noah Randolph, No. 3 singles;
AA-A girls, Poca's Courtney Mobley, No. 2 singles;
AAA boys, Hurricane's Alex Clay (No. 1 singles), Jordan Chapman (No. 2 singles) and the No. 1 doubles team of Clay and Chapman;
AAA girls, Riverside's Erin Hendricks at No. 1 singles.
Reach Nick Scala at 304-348-7947 or firstname.lastname@example.org.