State tennis tourney starts Thursday
HUNTINGTON -- While Huntington High emerged as the big winner by a mile on the boys side and by a slightly more narrow margin on the girls side in the Class AAA, Region IV tennis tournament, there are still other schools looking to make some noise at the state tournament in Charleston.
Huntington High is looking for championship three-peats as the boys and girls state tournament gets underway at 8 a.m., Thursday, on the Kanawha City Community Center courts.
The Highlanders' Hunter Tubert is the No. 1 singles defending champion, but Alex Beam of Cabell Midland and Hurricane's Alex Clay are looking to shake things up in the bracket.
Clay has been trying to break through at the regional and state level since 2010, with some success. In previous years, he was denied by Huntington High's Robert Skolik. For the past two years, the roadblock was Tubert.
To no one's surprise, the two met in the Region IV singles and doubles championships last week.
However, Clay generated buzz throughout the Ritter Park Tennis Center when he went up two games to none on Tubert in their regional final match. Tubert hadn't lost a game up to that point in the tourney, let alone trailed in a match.
In a contest the sophomore Tubert called "frustrating," the defending champ was able to rally and defeat Clay, 8-2. Afterward he remarked he wouldn't doubt it if he saw Clay again at the state level.
If it does happen, another championship will be on the line. Tubert and Clay are in opposing brackets to start the state tourney.
Clay takes on Abe Valenzuela of University at 9 a.m., Thursday, while Tubert will be taking on John Marshall's Hayden Blazer at the same time.
Also in the mix is Alex Beam from Cabell Midland.
Beam lost in the No. 1 bracket semifinals to Clay in the regional tournament, 8-0. He then fell in somewhat of a surprise to Logan's Zach Hatfield, 8-2, in the consolation match.
If Beam and Tubert were to advance, they would meet in the state semifinals. Hatfield and Clay would meet in the semis as well.
Beam faces Parkersburg's Saaman Ghodsi in the first round Thursday.
Cabell Midland coach Cindy Machmer thinks it's a matchup that favors Beam. The sophomore has lost twice in matches against Parkersburg this season, but the last loss was a tie-breaker that Beam played with an injured hand.
"He's had a wonderful season," Machmer said. "His only losses have been to Parkersburg, and Tubert and Clay.
"I just want to see him do well. If he gets past Parkersburg he'll face either Princeton or Washington, and we really don't know a lot about them."
Machmer said Beam is "a hard-working kid who gives his all, win or lose."
Unfortunately, Beam is Midland's only horse in the race.
His older sister Gabrielle Beam, a senior and a fixture at the state tournament, will have to withdraw because of advanced placement testing that is taking place at the same time, Machmer said.
"It's something that she can't make up, so she made the difficult decision to withdraw," Machmer said. "It's a disappointment, especially in her senior year, and it was very hard for her to make that decision."
Machmer said the state tournament committee will have to resolve the situation.
Gabrielle Beam was in a bracket that also includes Kayla McKnight of Hurricane, who fell in the regional final to reigning champ Cassie Mercer of Huntington High, 8-0.
McKnight knocked Beam out of the regional semifinals in a tight match, 9-7. Beam topped Logan's Lauren Chambers, 8-3, in the consolation game.
McKnight fell 8-0 to Mercer in the region final. The two are in opposite brackets in the state tournament.
Perhaps a bit of a surprise in the No. 4 tournament is Ashley White of Hurricane. White won the No. 4 bracket at the regional tourney, and pulled the same feat in doubles in the No. 3 tournament with partner Paige Phillips.
Hurricane's Vivian Yao also made state in the No. 2 bracket, and is McKnight's doubles partner in the No. 1 bracket.