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jeeya patel

Geroge Washington sophomore Jeeya Patel returns a shot to opponent Cece Weiler of Huntington during their No. 1 singles match at the Charleston Tennis Club on Thursday. Weiler won the match 8-3.

The COVID-19 pandemic cost tennis fans in the Mountain State a 2020 high school state tournament. Despite that, the tournament is back this season and as competitive as ever.

For George Washington’s girls team — one that features a corps of young athletes — competitiveness was the name of the game and the Patriots had a strong showing in the first day of the Class AAA state tennis tournament on Thursday at the Charleston Tennis Club.

Of GW’s six state tournament qualifiers, three are freshmen (Emilia Stacy, Francesca Charles and Emma Ratrie), two are sophomores (Jeeya Patel and Lily Stone) and one is a junior (Jana Zatar).

With youth comes obvious inexperience, as five of those six qualifiers are competing in the state tournament for the first time — Patel and Stone were likely to qualify as freshmen but the pandemic put an end to those aspirations.

Regardless of inexperience, the Patriots brought confidence and the aforementioned competitiveness to the courts and showed there is a lot for coach Dinah Hurley to look forward to in the coming years.

In the girls No. 1 singles, Patel started her day off strong with an 8-3 win over John Marshall’s Miranda Taylor. In the quarterfinal, however, Patel was downed by Huntington senior Cece Weiler by a score of 8-3. Patel said the players she faced were good and experienced but she enjoyed herself nonetheless.

“Everyone here is honestly really tough,” Patel said. “You have to win to get to this level so everyone was playing good. The first match, [my] opponent was really good. Same with the second one. She was consistent and hit hard. It’s always fun to play new people. I don’t play these people regularly [so] it’s a new experience.”

“Jeeya played well,” Hurley said. “Every ball [that was hit to her] came back. The opponents knew they were going to have to play some real tennis. It was tough competition.’’

Stone — who transferred to GW from Charleston Catholic this year — put together a solid performance as well in the No. 3 singles toward the end of the day. She defeated University’s Sydney Takacs 8-0 and moves on to face Parkersburg’s Isabel Bhati in the semifinals on Friday. Despite the win, Stone was happy to just be able to compete in her first state tournament.

“I feel great. I’ve been [at Charleston Tennis Club] since about 6 in the morning. Everyone has had such great attitudes. Overall, every team played great.”

“Lily is one determined young lady,’’ Hurley said. “She went out strong. She knew what she had to do. She got the job done. I didn’t really have and critiques there.’’

The only other Patriot girl who competed Thursday was Stacy in the No. 2 singles. After a first-round bye, she lost 8-1 in the quarterfinal to a more experienced opponent in Cabell Midland senior Kylie Fisher.

Win or lose, Hurley was pleased to be back on the court for the state tournament after the pandemic shutdown and she was pleased with her team’s performance.

“We are excited to be back out on the courts but at the same time, we want to keep our players healthy,” Hurley said. “I think everyone is ready for some normalcy. It’s been nice to see all the young athletes come together and support each other after the difficult year.

“We had some tough matches today. They all played well going into their first state tournament. We have some stuff to work on. They played some seasoned players. We’ll come back stronger next year.”

On Friday, the GW girls will be just as busy as Thursday. Zatar is scheduled to make her tournament debut in the No. 4 singles against Huntington’s Sophie Agrawal. Patel and Stacy are scheduled to compete in the No. 1 doubles, Stone and Charles compete in the No. 2 doubles and Zatar and Ratrie will face a duo from Wheeling Park in the No. 3 doubles.

Thursday’s AAA matches were originally scheduled to take place at the Schoenbaum Tennis Courts in Kanawha City, but rain forced the tournament indoors at Charleston Tennis Club. The AA-A tournament, which was scheduled to take place at Charleston Catholic’s Athletic Complex, was also moved indoors to the Charleston Family YMCA.

Friday’s tournament sites will be announced at 6:30 a.m. on Friday via the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission’s (WVSSAC) Facebook and Twitter sites.

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After the first day, George Washington, Huntington and Cabell Midland lead the Class AAA boys with five points each. Parkersburg and University are tied at three in second place. In third, Jefferson, Brooke and Morgantown are tied at two and Beckley and Hurricane are tied at one in fourth place.

In Class AAA girls, Huntington stands alone in first place with six points. Hurricane is in second with five, Cabell Midland is third with four and Woodrow Wilson is in fourth with three. Jefferson, Morgantown, Parkersburg, Princeton, South Charleston and George Washington are tied for fifth with two points.

In boys AA-A, Williamstown holds the lead with five points and Keyser is in second with four. Tied for third are Herbert Hoover, East Fairmont, Nitro and Parkersburg Catholic with three points. Wood County Christian, Logan, Berkeley and St. Joe are tied for fourth with two points and Weir, Winfield and Frankfort are tied for fifth with one point.

In girls AA-A, Williamstown and Chapmanville are atop the standings with four points. In second, Charleston Catholic, Logan, Oak Glen and Herbert Hoover are tied at three points. In third place with two points are Scott, Winfield and Lincoln. Berkeley, Bluefield and Wood County Christian are in fourth with one point.

Email Rick Farlow at rick.farlow@hdmediallc.com. Follow him on Twitter @FarlowRick.