George Washington has positioned itself to not only contend for another championship at this week’s state tennis tournament, but to perhaps flirt with a little bit of history as well.
The Patriots have qualified their full squads for both the boys and girls tournaments, which are set to begin at 8 a.m. Thursday at two sites in Charleston — the Class AAA matches at the Schoenbaum Tennis Courts in Kanawha City and the Class AA-A matches at Charleston Catholic’s Athletic Complex off Hillcrest Drive.
Competition continues through Saturday’s singles and doubles title matches, with champions crowned in four singles divisions and three doubles divisions for both boys and girls.
Since last year’s state tournament was canceled by COVID-19, George Washington stands as the event’s two-time defending champion in the boys division. Morgantown captured the 2019 girls team title the last time the tournament was contested.
“We feel good about our chances because we did qualify all seven [entries], compared to other teams,’’ said Taylor Dixon Rose, GW’s third-year boys coach.
“However, there are still other teams we have to compete against. We’d love to win, but we know it will be hard work.’’
Another carrot luring the Patriots in their title hunt is the fact that Parkersburg holds the all-time lead in boys championships with 21 since the tournament began in 1956. GW currently stands at 20 titles; thus, the Patriots could match the Big Reds as the state’s dominant program with one more crown.
Dixon Rose was unaware of the extra significance surrounding this year’s tournament for GW until a few days ago. However, she is quite aware of the annual high expectations placed upon the Patriots’ tennis program.
“I do think there are expectations,’’ she said, “especially since in a way we’re going for back to back [to back] titles. So there are their expectations in that sense, and the expectations at the school as well.’’
Dixon Rose pointed to Huntington, Hurricane, Cabell Midland and Parkersburg as four teams that will challenge GW in the boys division this weekend.
The Patriots boys squad is led by sophomore Rohen Jones at No. 1 singles, with senior Alex Stacy at No. 2 singles, freshman Samir Jones (brother of Rohen) at No. 3 singles and senior Chris Muto at No. 4 singles. The doubles squads are comprised of Rohen Jones and Stacy at No. 1, Samir Jones and Muto at No. 2 and senior Shreyes Jogenpally and sophomore Anurag Reddy at No. 3.
George Washington’s girls last won a state championship in 2018 and have claimed 14 titles in all, three short of Parkersburg’s state-leading total of 17. The girls tourney began in 1969.
Dinah Hurley, GW’s second-year girls coach, also cited Cabell Midland, Hurricane, Huntington and Parkersburg as formidable AAA opponents in the Patriots’ title quest in this week.
“They’re all strong, competitive teams going into states,’’ Hurley said.
Unlike GW’s boys team, the Patriots girls rely on a good deal of youth throughout their lineup, with no seniors and just one junior on the roster.
“We have a young team,’’ Hurley said, “with most of the players freshmen and sophomores. We have zero seniors, so it’s going to be hard.
“Our expectations for the state title are that it’s going to be tough for them, but they do work hard and work hard in the off-season, which helps. To pull off a state championship will be difficult, but it is attainable for our girls.’’
Sophomore Jeeya Patel toils at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles for GW, with freshman Emilia Stacy at No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles, sophomore Lily Stone at No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles, junior Jana Zatar at No. 4 singles and No. 3 doubles, freshman Francesca Charles at No. 2 doubles and freshman Emma Ratrie at No. 3 doubles.
Another Kanawha Valley team that has qualified entries into all seven singles and doubles slots is Charleston Catholic in the girls division. The Irish boys, defending champions in AA-A, did not field a team this season.
Admission for the state tournament is $10 for adults and $7 for students daily, but pass-outs and hand stamps will be issued each day. All-session passes for the three-day event are priced at $25 for adults and $18 for students.
Indoor venues in the event of rain are the Charleston Tennis Club near GW High School in South Hills (for the Class AAA matches) and the Charleston Family YMCA on Hillcrest Drive (for Class AA-A matches).