GW boys tennis back on top
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- George Washington's boys had four chances Saturday to dispatch Parkersburg and claim the Class AAA tennis team title, but Zach Koenig squashed the suspense early.
The first Patriot to hit the court, Koenig proceeded to handle the Big Reds' Alexander D'Costa 6-4, 6-3 at the Tennis Indoor Center in Kanawha City. That gave the Patriots their 15th point, clinching their first state title since 2010 and their 15th all-time.
"I sure felt the pressure and was really nervous out there," said Koenig, a junior. "This feels great - this is our first state championship as a team, we haven't won it in [three] years, and this is mine and Ryan's [Massinople] first year of winning it.
"We felt the pressure our freshman year, but we built the confidence and now we feel pretty good about winning."
Koenig and Massinople, the Patriots' No. 1 doubles team, pushed Huntington's Hunter Tubert and Campbell Neighborgall to three sets before falling 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. But that was OK for GW, which took five of the seven championships.
"That doubles match, sitting there, me and Aaron McGuffin, Huntington's coach, we enjoyed it," said GW coach Chris Luckett. "That was probably the best doubles you'll see in the state. Campbell, that's the best he's played in a long time.
"When you play that level of tennis, it comes down to key unforced errors; this match, it was a couple of returns here and there. Other than that, it could have gone either way."
Other winners were freshman Nick Koenig at No. 3, freshman Thomas McIntosh at No. 4, Nick Koenig and McIntosh at No. 2 doubles and freshmen Jonathan Moses and Ryan Mullins at No. 3 doubles.
Yes, that is a lot of freshmen on a senior-less team.
"We've got a pretty young group," Luckett said. "They're hungry for winning tennis. They play year-round anyway, so they'll be ready for next year."
With Tubert breezing to his second straight No. 1 singles championship, Huntington was the runner-up with 13 points. Parkersburg, which absorbed four two-set shellackings by GW, was stuck at 11.
Tubert's singles victory was much easier than his doubles win, as he buried Martinsburg's Grant Davis 6-2, 6-1. But Davis had hit a milestone, as Martinsburg's first-ever No. 1 finalist.
Huntington's girls piled on to their team title, which was clinched Friday. The day started with Cassie Mercer winning her third No. 1 title, belting Stephanie Arnold 6-0, 6-3.
"I don't feel any different," said Mercer, woman of few words.
Mercer and partner Braddick Price took No. 1 doubles, with Mercer blasting a signature ace to finish a 6-1, 6-4 win over Parkersburg's Cassandra Powell and Amber Kesterson. Katie Huck and Lauren Mahaney blew by GW's Jacqueline Teed and Marie Skaff 6-1, 6-3 in No. 2 doubles.
Rachel Subik took a hard-fought win at No. 3 singles, defeating Hurricane's Lindsay Goff 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (6-3). The Redskins had just lost at No. 2, with Princeton-bound Vivian Yao losing to Morgantown's Abby Rosiello, a left-hander sure to play No. 1 next year.
But the Redskins had one chance to take home its first runner-up trophy in the day's final match. The No. 3 doubles team of senior Ashley White and freshman Paige Phillips had to beat GW's Sara Moses and Kate Papadopolous.
A win and the Redskins tied Morgantown and won on a tiebreaker. A loss and the Mohigans would take home the trophy.
As it turned out, the match went to the third set, going more than two hours and finishing at 6:22 p.m. By then, Tennis Indoor Center members had gathered for a Saturday night of net fun, with the smell of grilling wafting through the arena.
Finally, White and Phillips got hot in a four-game stretch, taking a 5-1 lead and holding on for a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win.
"Yeah, that really helped. We just focused, for once," White said. "When we get intense, we're a pretty good team."
Did the winning duo know the stakes involved? They didn't until being informed during the break before the third set.
"After the second set, our coach told us that it was up to us," White said. "No pressure."
The entire schedule was played indoors at the four-court Indoor Center, with the Schoenbaum Tennis Courts covered with water. Volunteers and city workers had just about dried out the courts when another round of showers hit.
With all the chaos and limited spectator space of the Indoor Center, players won the compliment of tournament officials - all answered calls to report for their matches promptly.