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Local girls sign to play college tennis

Nov. 15, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Huntington High School tennis stars Cassie Mercer and Kate Huck joined Chesapeake standout Meili Martin in signing college scholarships Thursday.

The trio of close friends sat together giggling, hugging and enjoying the crowd of more than 50 people supporting them in the Huntington High library as they signed letters of intent -- Mercer with the University of Virginia; Huck with Christopher Newport University; and Martin with Bowling Green State University.

"I'm excited to play for Virginia," Mercer said as balloons in UVA, BGSU and CNU colors hovered overhead. "It's an exciting opportunity I'm blessed to have."

Mercer, the daughter of Marshall University coach John Mercer and former Thundering Herd coach Laurie Mercer, joins a Virginia program that ranks in the Top 0 nationally and finished second to North Carolina last season in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"It was the first school I visited," said Mercer, who led Huntington to three consecutive state championships and is ranked in the Top 20 recruits in the country. "I loved everything -- the academics, the coaches, the campus. I'm just really excited to go there."

Huck said she was recruited hard by Christopher Newport, an NCAA Division III school in Newport News, Va.

"It's going to be crazy going six hours away," said Huck, a state champion herself. "It will be going out and starting over. It's a new atmosphere and I look forward to that. That it's 30 minutes from the beach is nice."

Christopher Newport finished second to Methodist in the USA South Conference last season.

Martin and her sister Minda were the only two members of Chesapeake's team. She said Bowling Green, which finished second to Miami in the Mid-American Conference, is the perfect combination of far away and close to home.

"It's a really good school," said Martin, a second-team All-Ohio pick. "I like the coaches and the team. It will be a challenge. Everything's changing, but I'll work hard to do well."

Highlanders coach Joanie Poole said Mercer and Huck were tremendous assets to her team.

"I'm very sad to see them leave," Poole said. "But I'm excited for them."

All three girls received individual coaching from Laurie Mercer. All said she pushed them to be better than they knew they could be.

"Meili worked her way up to a four-star recruit despite being at a school that didn't have a tennis team," Laurie Mercer said. "Kate is a singles and doubles champion. She's done it all. Cassie overcame a major knee injury and worked her way back up. I'm excited to go watch her and cheer and not coach her."

The trio of standouts began playing in Kindergarten at Covenant School, where Laurie Mercer began a tennis clinic on Tuesdays after school.

"They worked so hard and they've been so consistent," Mercer said. "I've spent a lot of time with all three girls I'm proud of them and excited for them.

"I'm most proud of the types of young ladies they've turned out to be."

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