HHS rules tennis courts
HUNTINGTON -- Austin Preece entered the boys competition in the West Virginia Class AAA, Region IV tennis tournament as the only Huntington High player not seeded No. 1.
When the tournament ended Friday inside the bubble at the Ritter Park Tennis Center, Preece, the No. 2 seed in the No. 2 singles position, had something in common with his top-seeded teammates. He finished on top just as they did.
Preece beat Cullen Mears of Cabell Midland, 8-3, in the semifinals to get a shot at No. 1 Jacob Adkins of Logan. Adkins beat Preece in the regular season, 8-6.
The two either matched holding serve with breaking serve to end up at an 8-8 deadlock and force a tiebreaker. Adkins jumped to a 4-0 lead, but Preece batted back to win it, 7-5, for a 9-8 victory.
"I was hitting a lot of slice shots. I wasn't hitting the ball with any confidence," Preece said of his start in the tiebreaker. "Nothing was working. I quickly changed strategy. I got more aggressive. I played to win points. I was playing passive, scared when I was down 4-0.
"I had to come through. I'm No. 2 seed, the rest of the guys are No. 1. I knew my match would be a tossup. I needed to come through for my team, my confidence. I just want to fit in with the rest of the team."
Play began Friday on the outdoor courts and shifted to the bubble late in the afternoon when rain started to fall.
Huntington High dominated the day in boys and girls. The Highlanders produced champions at all four singles and three in doubles to prevail with 28 points on both sides. That's six straight regional crowns for the boys and four for the girls.
Cabell Midland was second in boys with 12 points, Logan third with 8 and Hurricane fourth with 7. Hurricane's girls had 15 points to take second and Spring Valley had 10 for third.
Huntington High's girls will seek a fourth straight state title at the West Virginia High School Championships next Thursday through Saturday in Charleston. George Washington is defending champion in Class AAA boys. Charleston Catholic seeks a repeat in boys and girls for Class AA/A.
For the first two days, Class AAA action will be at Charleston Catholic and Class AA/A at Kanawha City Community Tennis Center. All matches on championship Saturday will be at Kanawha City. Action starts each day at 8 a.m.
Huntington High's other boys singles champs were Hunter Tubert at No. 1, Joseph Touma at No. 3 and Chip Sweeney at No. 4. In doubles, Tubert and Preece, seeded No. 1, won as did Touma/Sweeney at No. 3 and Tyler Staker/Grant Subik at No. 3.
"Hunter's a great player. I just do what I can," Preece said of being Tubert's doubles partner.
For Huntington High's girls, singles champs were Cassie Mercer at No. 1, Kate Huck at No. 2, Ava Ratcliff at No. 3 and Rachele Subik at No 4. Prevailing in doubles were Mercer/Huck at No. 1, Ratcliff/Subik at No. 2 and Nicole Oliashirazi/Leah Simon at No. 3.
"We head to states with all No. 1 seeds. I'm excited by that," Highlanders coach Joanie Poole said. "We won some close ones today. We came through when needed."
Tubert, who's attracting attention from colleges, will be after his third singles title. Mercer, who's going to the University of Virginia, will be trying to make it 4-for-4 in the state.
"She's been getting a lot of attention," Poole said. "People talk about her and will be watching. She's handled it all well."
Cabell Midland's boys had regional runner-up performances by Alex Beam at No. 1 singles and John Kuhn at No. 3 singles.
Katie Swann of Spring Valley was the girls No. 1 singles runner-up.
Hurricane had several runner-up finishes including Stephanie Spaulding in girls No. 4 singles. Results of Spaulding's match Thursday were incorrect in Friday's edition of The Herald-Dispatch.
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