Parkersburg tennis well represented in finals
CHARLESTON — Sixteen of the 28 tennis state finals matches will have a distinctly Parkersburg flavor when they begin at 8 a.m. today.
Parkersburg High staked its claim to more than the majority of Class AAA finals spots available after several semifinal victories Friday inside Kanawha City’s Tennis Indoor Center.
“It was a great day for us — we placed kids in nine out of the 14 finals,” said PHS co-head coach Jeff Olson. “We will take home hardware tomorrow; I just don’t know where we will be at yet.”
Parkersburg enters the day with one point of top-scoring Huntington, 13-12.
The Big Reds’ top boys player Zarion Jones meets Huntington’s JJ Mercer for the third time this season bright and early this morning.
Jones earned his opportunity with his 6-4, 6-1 match win over University’s Drew Hawthorne. The sophomore known as “Z” dropped the first game in set one before taking control with a 6-3 finish. Parkersburg’s top player only let one other contest get away in the second set, a 6-1 win for the Big Red.
As if attracted magnetically, Jones and Mercer do battle a second time today when they face off in top doubles action with partners Seena Saadevandi and Chip Sweeney respectively.
Neema Saadevandi’s view from the top of the state championship mountain is blocked by the Highlanders’ No. 2 player Sam Haikial.
The oldest Saadevandi child lost one game on his way to a 6-1, 6-0 triumph over Hurricane’s Michael Phillips. Haikal battled through a grueling three-set duel with George Washington’s Nadeem Jones and eventually won 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6-4).
Andrew Gnegy and Saadevandi face Haikal and partner Joe Touma in the No. 2 doubles title match. Parkersburg’s most experienced pairing owns a one-match winning streak over the Highlander pair after grabbing a regional championship against them just a few weeks ago.
Parkersburg’s No. 3 doubles team of Eric Carney and Ethan Weaver “played the best they have ever played in dominating the competition,” according to Olson against George Washington to set up a showdown with Jefferson’s Jordan Dixen-Gross and Tighe Didden for all the marbles.
Bairavi Sundaram and Lauren Kruger put themselves one win away from the top prize in Mountain State tennis alone as singles players and together as a doubles team.
“I didn’t have any worries in the prior matches, but the finals should be interesting,” said Bairavi, who is facing Huntington’s No. 3 girl Olivia Woodward for the first-place trophy.
Kruger dropped just four games against George Washington’s Lia Dollison for the 6-3, 6-1 positive outcome.
“I was just really nervous,” said the Big Reds’ No. 4 player.
Jefferson’s Anna Ours awaits Kruger in the round she was defeated in last season. Ours needed three sets against Morgantown’s MacKenzie Sorton to eventually win 4-6, 6-3, 6-0.
“I am going to be nervous when I step on the court tomorrow because it is a state championship,” said Kruger. “But I am a lot more confident than I was. It means a lot too get back to this point for the second year in a row. It has been a really long journey to get here and I definitely want to win it this year.”
Finally, Zoe Pingley and Bre Offenberger require one more best-of-three match win for a crown in No. 3 doubles. The Big Red duo did not drop a game Friday and face Morgantown’s Sorton and Isabella Mascari today.
Meanwhile, Parkersburg Catholic’s chances of a Class AA/A team title remain intact after the Crusaders placed their top four boys’ singles players and top two doubles squads into the final match of the year.
Jason Discini’s No. 1 boy Nash Morris is in his second straight trip to the state championship match after his convincing defeat of Wheeling Central’s Giorgio Alexander in straight sets 6-1, 6-3.
“In the second set, I had a little trouble, getting it down 0-2 in the second set before winning 6-3,” said Morris, when asked if Alexander presented any challenges for him. “He (Alexander) had a spike there at the end of the first and into the second where he was playing super well, but I withstood it.”
The top boys title match is nothing but Mid-Ohio Valley interest as Ravenswood’s Max Hilton stands in the way of Morris and the apex of the sport.
Morris and Nash meet a second time when they team with their No. 1 doubles partners of Nick Williams and Noah Chidester respectively with everything on the line one more time.
The Red Devil duo holds the distinction as the only team with a win over the Crusader duo this season.
Chidester had a slow start in his No. 2 singles semifinal match against Chapmanville freshman Alec Stower. The Catholic blue and white-clad senior emerged victorious in the last six games of the opening set after he fell behind 2-0.
He advanced to the state final for the second year in a row with a dominant 6-1 performance in the second set.
“I was just trying to stay consistent and keep it in the court,” said the brainy Chidester. “I made him make the mistakes instead of me and it seemed to work pretty well after I figured out what exactly to do.”
Charleston Catholic’s Drew Elliot won his way to the opposition spot after a tough battle through his side of the bracket.
Brendan Smith became the third Parkersburg Catholic boys player who obtained back-to-back state berths after his gritty takedown of Charleston Catholic’s Nick Hatcher 6-1, 6-0.
“I never actually played him until now,” said Smith. “I didn’t quite know what to expect. He tried to go after my backhand and hit off the slices, but I was confident I could adjust after seeing it from St. Marys’ Albert Baneras yesterday. I also sent him running across the court and interrupted his timing.”
Aidan Roberts wasted little time making his presence felt in his first trip to states. Catholic’s freshman boys No. 4 player was lost just three games on his way to a 6-1, 6-2 straight-set win against North Marion’s Todd Toland.
Roberts and Smith also have a No. 2 doubles title on their minds after an 6-2, 6-1 defeat of Charleston Catholic’s Hatcher and Istfan.
Huntington St. Joseph’s Audrey Heaberlin looms as the toughest test Catholic’s No. 1 girls player Marie Discini has faced all year when the two collide for a title.
“I have actually played her before,” said Discini. “We don’t know each other well, but we do know each other.”
Morris, Chidester and Discini all hit the court at 8 a.m. today at the Charleston YMCA.
When asked if he had any final words for his Crusaders, Discini was very purposeful with his words. “We are going to take it one point and one game at time and stay on take like we have all year. We will come out fearless, focused and ferocious.”
Williamstown’s lone representative’s advanced to the championship round as well. Aaliyah Enoch and Susan Fauber compete against Winfield’s Gray and Anderson in one of the last matches of the tournament.