Hensley

West Virginia State women’s tennis player Kierstin Hensley will help lead the Yellow Jackets into the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional.

The road to the NCAA Division II women’s tennis tournament runs through the Schoenbaum courts in Kanawha City. And there’s a chance that Kanawha County could own two spots in the national bracket.

Both the West Virginia State University and University of Charleston women’s tennis teams qualified for the Atlantic Regional bracket. Both the Golden Eagles and Yellow Jackets are hosts, and both will host their brackets at the Schoenbaum courts.

State and UC were the Atlantic’s top two seeds. The Yellow Jackets, which beat Charleston for the Mountain East Conference tournament title, are the No. 1 seed, while the Golden Eagles sit at No. 2. With that, both owned tournament hosting honors.

If State and UC win their respective brackets, they would earn two of the 16 slots in the national tournament, held this year at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs, Florida. It would be WVSU’s second straight trip to nationals, as the Yellow Jackets fell in the first round of their inaugural trip last year.

When competition begins Monday in Kanawha City, the Golden Eagles will be in action. UC plays seventh-seeded Shaw at 1 p.m. No. 3 seed Salem and No. 6 seed West Chester play at 3:30 p.m. The winners of those two matches face off at 2 p.m. Tuesday for a spot in the national tournament.

The Golden Eagles already have played the three other teams in their bracket earlier this season. UC defeated Shaw 6-1 on April 14, defeated Salem 5-2 on Oct. 3 and defeated West Chester 7-0 on April 27.

The Yellow Jackets can rest Monday, getting a first-round bye. On Tuesday, they’ll face the winner of Monday’s match between No. 4 seed Mercyhurst and No. 5 seed Slippery Rock. State has defeated both its opponents in its bracket as well this season. WVSU defeated Slippery Rock 4-3 on April 6 and Mercyhurst 5-2 on April 14.

Both teams feature highly decorated rosters. Charleston has in its group the Mountain East Player of the Year, Kristine Gegeshidze, and MEC Coach of the Year, Shari Reed. Three Golden Eagles were All-MEC first-teamers — Gegeshidze, Katie Swann and Elise Edwards — while Silva Slusarciuc made the second team.

West Virginia State has two All-MEC first teamers in Laura Isbey and Kierstin Hensley. Isbey owns the two MEC Player of the Year trophies prior to this season’s.

Contact Derek Redd at 304-348-1712 or derek.redd@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.