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PREP TENNIS: Charleston Catholic boys eye ninth-straight state title



In 2005, YouTube launched, The Colbert Report debuted and Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast.

That year was also the last time Charleston Catholic didn’t win the boys state tennis title.

The Irish, winners of eight consecutive Class AA/A championships, enter Thursday’s opening day of the state tournament with a tougher road to another crown. Charleston Catholic won titles at all seven positions last season, but only one of those players returned this year.

The Irish again have all seven positions qualified for this year’s Class AA/A event, which gets underway at the Schoenbaum Courts in Kanawha City at 8 a.m. In the event of inclement weather, matches will be moved to the nearby Tennis Indoor Center.

“The group’s been great,” Irish coach David Sadd said. “They’ve been fabulous to work with as a young team, a very inexperienced team. We have all kids qualified, but that looks more grand than it really is. When we get there we have a lot of winning to do to be able to come through this thing.”

Charleston Catholic lost singles state-title winners Mark Cassis, Scott Standish, Jad Malas and Tanner Whipkey after last season’s clean sweep. Noah Cable, who won a state title at No. 3 doubles last season, is the team’s new No. 1 singles player. Andrew Jones is No. 2, Tyler Zubick No. 3 and Joe Kelly No. 4. Cable and Kelly team up at first doubles and Jones and Zubick are the second doubles team.

The team’s top six players consist of two seniors, two sophomores and two freshmen.

Sadd isn’t focused on what happened from 2006-2013, but he’s not ruling out a run by his young group.

“Everybody has to win early,” he said. “Any early losses and it’s going to most likely compromise any chance we have at repeating.”

“We’re there; Everybody is trying to win the next one, it doesn’t matter how many we’ve won in a row. It’s going to come to an end at some point.”

The last Class AA/A boys program to win a team state title was Huntington St. Joseph.

“We just want to win because we want to win,” Sadd said. “Doesn’t matter what number it is. If we have to start over next year, we’ll start with one.

“We’ll want to get one in a row and go from there.”

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THE GEORGE WASHINGTON boys tennis team has all seven positions qualified for the Class AAA field, which begins play Thursday at 8 a.m. at the Charleston Catholic Tennis Complex.

Unlike the Irish, the Patriots returned all but one from last year’s top six.

“All of them will have great opportunities to be in the finals,” GW coach Chris Luckett said. “I expect Huntington to be there at all positions.”

George Washington’s singles lineup is the same as last year, when the Patriots scored 19 points to beat Huntington (13) and Parkersburg (11) for the state title.

Ryan Massinople is at No. 1 singles, plus returning state singles champs at No. 2 (Zach Koenig), No. 3 (Nick Koenig) and No. 4 (Thomas McIntosh). Massinople last in last year’s state semifinals to Martinsburg’s Grant Davis, who has since graduated. Massinople is on the opposite side of the draw as Huntington’s top seed, Hunter Tubert, who defeated Davis in last year’s No. 1 final.

Massinople and Zach Koenig are again the No. 1 doubles team. Last year they lost in the state final to Huntington. Nick Koenigh and McIntosh are back to defend their No. 2 doubles title from a year ago.

George Washington and Huntington have combined to win the last seven team titles.

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LUCKETT TOOK OVER as the George Washington girls coach this season, and he thinks this is the deepest Patriots girls team since 2006-2007, when Erica White led GW to consecutive state team titles.

“Top to bottom, I think, the overall talent is there for GW to make a good run,” Luckett said. “It’s going to be hard for anybody to beat Huntington.”

The Highlanders, led by University of Virginia signee Cassie Mercer, have won three consecutive state titles since Mercer debuted as a freshman.

Huntington, GW and Parkersburg are the only three girls’ teams with all seven positions qualified.

So, can anyone keep up with Mercer and her teammates?

“Huntington would have to lose in the first round of all their matches,” Luckett said.

Luckett shuffled the lineup this season. He has Kristen White back at No. 1 singles, Sarah Moses at No. 2, Jacquiline Teed at No. 3 and Jordyn O’Dell at No. 4. Last season, no GW girls player won an individual state title, but No. 2 doubles and No. 3 doubles made finals appearances.

“You’re going to have interesting matches for the girls,” Luckett said. “For us, we have a chance to collect a lot of points on the back end. I think it’s a great opportunity for us; we could potentially have a good opportunity at states.

But, he said of Huntington: “No one is going to compete with that.”

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OVERALL THERE are 31 players from Kanawha and Putnam County in the three-day event.

Hurricane’s girls team, which finished runner-up to Huntington last season, has four qualifiers. Lindsey Goff, who lost in the No. 3 singles final to Huntington last season, is in the field at No. 2 singles. Paige Phillips, who won a state title at No. 3 doubles last season, is the Redskins’ No. 3 singles player. Kayla McKnight returns to the state tournament field at No. 1 singles, and she’ll team with Goff at No. 1 doubles.

Charleston Catholic’s girls qualified three positions: No. 1 singles (Christina Centofanti), No. 2 singles (Sarah Fox) and No. 1 doubles (Centofanti and Fox). After six consecutive team titles, the Irish’s down year has opened the door for a new Class AA/A girls state champion.

No. 1 singles players Capital’s Parker Boughton and Nitro’s Shane Dempsey are the lone qualifiers from their schools on the boys side, while Riverside’s No. 1 singles player Erin Hendricks, a W.Va. State signee, made the field again on the girls side.

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