Three Crusaders to play for title

CHARLESTON – Three Parkersburg Catholic tennis players have earned the privilege at an attempt to end their seasons with a state-championship win at 7:30 a.m. today at Schoenbaum Courts in Kanawha City.

Crusaders Nash Morris, Noah Chidester and Brendan Smith made it through their respective brackets Friday to earn a chance at prep tennis immortality.

“State finalist and all-stater,” said Morris. “It feels really good.”

The junior downed seemingly-weekly opponent Max Hilton of Ravenswood in a No. 1 singles matchup, 6-1 and 6-2, to punch his ticket to play today. In addition to the title shot, Morris will also be named to the all-state team after finishing in the top four in his bracket.

“We are in a league together, so we play each other a lot,” said Morris. “I knew he would really want to use his forehand out on the court today, so I played to his backhand to take away his main weapon. I also had to get past his tough serve coming in from a left-hander. But once I adjusted. I knew I had the match.”

Awaiting him on the opposite side of the court today will be Charleston Catholic’s Andrew Jones. The Irish senior played a tougher match than Morris did in his semifinal, but eventually wore down Bridgeport’s Bryce Williams.

“This is definitely going to be a challenge for me,” said the Crusader sophomore. “

He beat me 6-8 during the regular season and then 8-1 at regionals. I am definitely going to be looking for a little redemption. I plan on playing hard and leaving it all out on the court. All the pressure is on him and hopefully I can capitalize on that.”

The Wood County-based team’s No. 2 singles player, Chidester, had a tight match against Bridgeport’s Brady Hillegas Friday to earn his spot for today.

The blue and white-clad junior went through a grueling first set that included a tie-breaker. The duo battled to a 6-6 tie at the end of 12 games and required 12 additional points to end the first set. Chidester prevailed, 7-4, to go up one set to none.

The following set was also closely played, but the Crusader was able to stay out of a knotted scenario and pulled off some close points to take the second set and the match, 6-4.

“It was definitely closer than I would have liked it today,” said Chidester. “It was fun and exciting all the way through. I had already beaten him 8-3 once this year, so I came out with a lot of confidence. My backhand was really working well for me today, but there were a bunch of little things I need to clean up before my championship match tomorrow.”

Chidester also earned all-state honors after he made it to the championship round.

His reward for doing so is a date with another Charleston Catholic player. The junior will play senior Tyler Zubick for a chance at a West Virginia prep tennis state title.

The Irish netter downed Mitchell Martin of Moorefield, 6-2 and 6-1, to secure his slot in today’s best-of-3 showdown.

“It is going to be a really good match,” said Chidester. “I have beat him both times this year, but both have been really close. I won the first matchup, 8-6 (7-5), and then the second one, 9-8 (7-4).”

Finally, No. 3 singles player Smith (perhaps the freshest of the trio, due to him having to play one less match) defeated East Fairmont’s Evan Flohr, 6-1 and 6-3, to set up his title contest. The challenger standing in the sophomore’s way will be none other than Joe Kelly … from Charleston Catholic. Kelly made quick work of Wheeling Central’s David Agcaoli.

“I couldn’t be more proud of these three boys for the way they have competed this weekend,” said Parkersburg Catholic head man Dino Lyons. “They all worked very hard to get to this point and I know myself and the boys are going to do everything within our power tomorrow to bring home three state championships.”