HHS girls tennis clinches third straight title
CHARLESTON -- The Huntington High girls tennis team could drop every match in the state finals Saturday and still walk away champs.
They won't do that, not on purpose anyway, but the fact remains that as the Class AAA girls state tennis tournament enters its final day, no other team can catch the Highlanders. Huntington High has won its third consecutive girls state title a day early.
Cassie Mercer will play for a second-straight state title in the No. 1 bracket on Saturday. Highlander sophomore Rachele Subik will play for a title in the No. 3 bracket, and the Highlanders have two doubles teams that will play for a title in the No. 1 and No. 2 brackets.
"It feels great and it feels even better that the girls aren't going to be as nervous Saturday," Huntington High coach Joanie Poole said. "The singles championships, doubles championships, they can just go out there and play and feel good about it, and that's what makes me happy.
"But I'm very happy about the three-peat as well."
Championship matches in Class AAA and Class AA/A will be conducted Saturday beginning at 8 a.m. on the Schoenbaum Tennis Center courts in Kanawha City.
There was some doubt as to whether the girls team could pull a championship off a third time after the Highlanders failed to advance a player to state in the No. 4 individual bracket and the No. 3 doubles bracket.
Those fears escalated Friday when Kate Huck was knocked out of the No. 2 bracket in a semifinal upset.
That match ended about the time that Rachele Subik, a sophomore who won the No. 4 bracket last year, was breaking down in her semifinal match in the No. 3 position.
Subik had put Parkersburg's Sheridan White away easily enough in the first of the best of three sets, 6-1.
But Sheridan dug in during the second set, and had tied Subik 3-3. The sophomore was visibly frustrated.
"It got really close at 3-2, and then I learned my fellow teammate Kate Huck had lost, and we basically couldn't lose any more games," Subik said. "I got really nervous and then it got tied up, but I just had to regain my focus and stay ahead."
One of the ways Subik regained control of the match was by hammering away at Sheridan's backhand until her opponent would finally make a mistake.
"Last time I played her was at (the Mountain State Athletic Conference tournament), and I learned that she likes to hit big shots," Subik said. "So I knew her backhand was her weaker side and if I could keep her there that wouldn't happen as much."
Subik won the second set, 7-5, to complete the win.
Poole acknowledged Subik's win wasn't just key in the points total, but came at a key moment for the Highlanders.
"She did an excellent job," Poole said, adding with a bit of a laugh "She couldn't just hurry things along, she likes to stretch it out and make it stressful for everyone else watching her."
Subik will face Hurricane's Lindsay Goff, who defeated University's Cassie Seamon 6-4, 7-5, in the No. 3 final.
On the boys side, it was a much different story for Huntington High.
The boys team is also defending consecutive state championships, but after Hunter Tubert reached the final in the No. 1 position, the dominoes started to fall. Campbell Neighborgall, Austin Preece and Charles Jenkins all fell in the semifinals of their respective brackets.
The boys mounted a good comeback later in the day, with Tubert and Neighborgall reaching the doubles final in the No. 1 bracket, and Preece and Jenkins defeating University in a three-set semifinal to reach the championship in the No. 2 spot. Huntington High's No. 3 team fell in the semifinal to Parkersburg, also in three sets.
As a team, the Highlanders will likely be battling Parkersburg for second place behind George Washington.
Also in Class AAA, Hurricane has a few players going for championships Saturday. Aside from Goff, Vivian Yao will take on Morgantown's Abby Rosiello for the No. 2 bracket title, and the doubles team of Paige Phillips and Ashley White, which was the last team off the court Friday after a win in three sets over Parkersburg, will take on George Washington in the No. 4 doubles final.
In Class AA/A, Charleston Catholic sealed state championships for the boys and girls teams Friday, but Huntington St. Joe's Max Meade has a shot at the No. 1 boys singles title. He faces Charletson Catholic's Mark Cassis in the finals.