In Jay Carter’s first year as Williamstown’s tennis coach, he was spoiled. He had Aaron and Adam Marchetti and rode them to the boys 1995 state Class AA-A championship.
Carter is still around today, and is still coaching his Yellowjackets to state team titles.
OK, so that statement was only half true — until Saturday. With Luke Flanagan and brothers Alex and Ryan Leo leading the way, the Yellowjackets captured their second state title, ending the eight-year reign of Charleston Catholic.
So what was Carter’s problem all these years?
It wasn’t for a lack of participation or talent, to a large extent. The Yellowjackets did win the runner-up trophy last season.
Considering Charleston Catholic’s thorough domination in recent years, it’s tough to remember who picked up the “other” hardware. But Carter surely didn’t forget all those powerful AA-A teams that got in his way.
“We’ve had some good players, but you’ve got to remember Charleston Catholic has had some great teams,” Carter said. “The Bluefields down here, they’ve won a couple of times. In between, Parkersburg Catholic has won a couple of times. Wheeling Central.
“It’s very hard. Those are the main reasons it’s been very difficult. I had the quality of kids to do it, where we were regional runners-up. But we never had that number to get over [the hump].”
This time, the Yellowjackets did. They outslugged Catholic 16-13, with Aaron and Ryan Leo winning at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, over the Irish’s Andrew Jones and Tyler Zubick. Luke Flanagan and Aaron Leo combined to win at No. 1 doubles.
Catholic pulled down two victories in easily locking down the runner-up prize. Joe Kelly won at No. 4 over Madonna’s Allen Alimario, and Jones and Zubick combined to beat Ryan Leo and Alex Kingson at No. 2 doubles.
Alex Leo finished his singles season 24-0, something the Marchetti brothers didn’t do.
“They’re in the Virginia Tech hall of fame, and they didn’t go undefeated,” Carter said.
The Yellowjackets and nearly everyone else had departed by the time Parkersburg Catholic won the team championship in girls Class AA-A. The Crusaders captured their second such title, the first coming in 1998.
In this mixed-up field, the Crusaders needed only nine points to complete the Wood County small-school sweep. But they paid a heavy price in anxiety.
Julie Wiseman recorded the team’s only championship, beating Madonna’s Morgan Duerr 7-5, 6-0. As it turned out, Wiseman’s two points were much more hard-earned.
“Julie was down double match point to a Chapmanville girl at the regional,” said Crusaders coach Nacho Cardenas. “If she doesn’t rally and win that match, we’re not standing here.”
Funny Cardenas should mention Chapmanville Regional, because the Tigers scored six points and put their paw prints all over the team race.
First, the Tigers’ duo stymied the Crusaders at No. 2 doubles, with Halley Justice and Alex Lewis rallying to beat Wiseman and Kate Clowes 2-6, 6-1, 6-4. Denied that tournament-clinching point, the Crusaders were forced to watch Bluefield try to steal the top prize in the No. 3 doubles match.
Which involved Chapmanville. And you know that match had to go three sets.
When the last ball dropped at just before 8 p.m., the Chapmanville duo of Mya Bryant and Sara Lambert thwarted Bluefield’s Emma Cole and Camilla Deeb 7-5, 5-7, 6-4.
With that, the Tigers celebrated their first girls state championship of any sort, the Crusaders celebrated their first team title in 16 years and Bluefield finished as disappointed but proud runner-up.
“A really good friend of mine, in fact the head coach I started working with, Joe Joyce, always told our students and told all the coaches, ‘It’s No. 3 doubles teams that win state tournaments,’ ” Cardenas said. “I just never realized it would be someone else’s.”
There was another breakthrough in the marquee singles event, as Wheeling Central senior Joanna Capito beat Charleston Catholic’s Christina Centofanti 7-6 (8-6), 6-2. Capito was eliminated three times by former Irish star Claire Hamilton, at No. 2 twice and No. 1 last year.
Capito and her coach, Peggy Dailer, said winning the first-set tiebreaker settled her down and energized her.
“I think once she got that behind her, she got a little more confidence and she played a lot better in the second set,” Dailey said.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.