PHS in running for individual state tennis crowns

Photo by Joe Albright Parkersburg's Jacob Boone prepares to return a shot during a rally in his three-set victory over University's Kyle Hawthorne in a Class AAA state semifinal Friday at Schoenbaum Courts. Boone will face three-time defending champion Huntington's J.J. Mercer in the final.

CHARLESTON — Tests of endurance, will power, and focus awaited the Class AAA state semifinalist Friday at Schoenbaum Courts in Kanawha City. The sun beat down on the hard surfaces as spots in the finals were up for grabs following an early morning rain storm.

Parkersburg High’s Jacob Boone, who trained harder than he ever has in the offseason to earn the No. 1 singles’ spot, was the first Big Red to face the now daunting best-of-3 format against University’s Kyle Hawthorne. His newly found extra gear kicked in during the third and final set for the first local state finalist.

“Yes,” said Boone when asked if his training aided him during the final set. “We also got new balls (in the third set) and it felt like the first set again because I was hitting really well unlike the second set.”

Boone also powered through a few mind games as Hawthorne called for a line judge during the second set. “It didn’t bother me because everything I called out, he called out,” said Boone.

The task awaiting him in the finals remains unchanged from the Region IV tournament. Huntington’s J.J. Mercer overcame a few nerves in the second set versus George Washington’s Anthony McIntosh, in a match which easily could have been for the state championship, for a straight set victory.

Mercer handily conquered Boone in all four matches of the season series.

PHS co-head coach Jeff Olson knew Boone could get to this point at the beginning of the season.

“Knew if he like even of our kids played well they were capable of great things,” said Olson on Boone, who played through some cramping in Hawthorne’s lone set win in the second contest.

Teammate and No. 2 singles player Seena Saadevandi also played a three-set barnburner against George Washington’s Nadeem Jones and dealt with cramps. The final results however read differently. Saadevandi dropped the deciding sets after he captured a 6-4 victory in the opener.

Despite the setback, Saadevandi still has a shot at his second state title in as many seasons. Boone and he advanced to the No. 1 doubles final where George Washington’s Anthony McIntosh and Jones await for a third match of the year.

Another final with PHS and GW flavor comes in at No. 3 singles where Nick McBride and Azeem Khan meet for the fourth time this season. McBride won a Mountain State Athletic Conference title the last time the duo met and can even the season series with another victory today. The pairings singles’ match won’t be the lone time the two meet in a final contest. Big Red’ teammate Jaxen Ranson and McBride face Kareem Bacha and Kahn in the No. 2 doubles title.

Ranson came in to Friday with the opportunity for two championships, but GW’s Alex Stacy erected a sturdy road block in a straight-set victory. The Big Red ended his freshman season one win from the state finals.

Stacy ended two more Big Reds’ seasons with doubles partner Darshan Sangani in straight sets over Canyon Alkire and Matt Pierson.

Though not complete by deadline, the girls’ No. 3 pairing of Farrah McGinnis and Kelsie Sanders appear to have an opportunity for a happy ending for their first year as doubles partners. They led their semifinal match by one set and a break late Friday night.

While there was hope of a boys’ team state title at the beginning of the day, the losses to GW make a third-straight runner-up finish the mostly likely outcome in the team standings. Olson, however, wasn’t resigned to the fact his team would take home just the main second-place hardware.

“We have a chance at four or five state titles,” said Olson. “You fight all year long to put yourself in a position to take home some hardware and I am proud of what the kids have accomplished so far as well.”