First test, then tennis
CHARLESTON -- At 8 a.m. Thursday, Campbell Neighborgall was at Huntington High School taking his Advanced Placement test in English Literature.
At the same time, his teammates on the boys tennis team were at Schoenbaum Tennis Courts competing in first-day Class AAA action in the West Virginia High School Tennis Tournament.
Not to worry. Neighborgall completed his test around 11:10 a.m., hopped into the car with his dad and they zipped down Interstate 64 to the 35th Street Bridge exit where the courts are located after crossing MacCorkle Avenue.
Neighborgall arrived in time to play his quarterfinal match at No. 2 singles. The senior beat Oak Hill's Christian Heath, 6-1, to get a spot in the semifinals Friday against Alexander D'Costa of Parkersburg.
"I was nervous," Neighborgall said. "I finished early ... I worked fast. When we got here, I hopped the fence, checked in and went on the court."
Neighborgall had several chats with Highlanders coach Aaron McGuffin during changeovers and the talks calmed him down.
"I still was in the test mode," Neighborgall said. "I try to be consistent. That's what carries me through."
Huntington High is seeking to repeat as champion. The Highlanders lost four players off the 2012 squad, but they made steady progress during this season and had players qualify for the state in all four spots in singles and three spots in doubles.
"It's exciting and nerve wracking," Neighborgall said. "We wondered if we could do it. We're a lot younger. As the season went on we got better. We saw it was possible."
In the pairings, the Highlanders are opposite George Washington in all spots. To see the Patriots again would mean both are in the finals and outcomes will help decide the team champion.
George Washington beat the Highlanders twice in the regular season. The Patriots won the Region 3 title and Huntington prevailed in Region 4. Neighborgall lost to GW's Zach Koenig twice -- regular season and Mountain State Athletic Conference finals.
"I'd like another chance at him," Neighborgall said.
Huntington's Hunter Tubert, defending champ at No. 1 singles, won two matches Thursday. Each decision was 8-0.
"I started slow, but played better in the second match," Tubert said. "I was more aggressive and more confident. We know there's pressure on us. GW beat us two times. We know what it'll take."
On the girls side, Huntington High, which had five state qualifiers, got off to a 4-0 start Thursday. Cassie Mercer won twice and No. 1 singles. Katie Huck won at No. 2 and Rachel Subik at No. 3.
"I just try to do my best," said Mercer, who confirmed she's given a verbal commitment to the University of Virginia to continue her tennis career.
Semifinal matches in singles and quarterfinal and semifinal matches in doubles are scheduled Friday. Championship matches are Saturday. Class AA/A competition is being held at Charleston Catholic Athletic Faciity (formerly The Players Club) on Hillcrest Drive. Matches begin each day at 8 a.m.
Hurricane's girls qualified players at all seven spots, a school first. The previous best for the Redskins was two.
"That's huge for us," said Glenna Ragle, who's in her 15th season as Hurricane coach. "Mathematically we have a chance."
In singles, Redskins qualifiers are Kayla McKnight at No. 1, Vivian Yao at No. 2, Lindsay Goff at No. 3 and Ashley White at No. 4. She beat Huntington High's Braddick Price in the regional finals to advance. Doubles teams are McKnight-Yao, Goff/Summer Berardi and White-Paige Phillips. Hurricane won all singles matches Thursday, but McKnight and Yao lost in doubles.
Ragle hopes her team is up to challenging for the top spot. That means going through the likes of Huntington High and Parkersburg.
"We had a talk after regionals. I told the girls it's set up for you," Ragle said. "Some teams don't have all their players here. Still we have to do it. It's common for those teams, new for us. We had a good first day."
In Class AA/A, Huntington St. Joe's Max Meade went 2-0 at No. 1 singles. He's defending champion and should he and Charleston Catholic's Mark Cassis win their matches Friday, they'll meet for the title Saturday. Cassis, a sophomore, lost the first set to Cassic a year ago, but won the next two.
In doubles, Meade and partner Jackson Reynolds lost in round one at No. 1.
For St. Joe's girls, No. 1 Maggie Dransfeld won her first match, but lost in the quarterfinals. At No. 2, Beth Sutfin lost in the first round as did Lauren Breece at No. 3. At No. 1 doubles, Dransfeld and partner Taranee Karimpour went out in round one.