Huntington keeps it green with repeat AAA tennis sweep
It was a fine day for the wearing of the green at the state tennis tournament.
Not only did Charleston Catholic pull off yet another sweep in the Class AA-A division Saturday, but Huntington won both the boys and girls crowns in AAA for a second consecutive year at the Schoenbaum Courts in Kanawha City. Each school wears green as its dominant color.
The Highlanders did it in style in the boys tournament, winning all seven final events and scoring a perfect 22 points, far outdistancing runner-up George Washington (10). Only two of their seven wins took more than straight sets.
Meanwhile, Huntington won five girls finals to prevail in a back-and-forth struggle with Parkersburg during the three-day state tournament. The Highlanders finished with 19 points, four more than the Big Reds.
Fortunately for the Highlander boys, freshman phenom Hunter Tubert wasn't as green as his uniform indicated. He emerged with a convincing 6-3, 6-1 victory over hard-serving Max Schulz-Mullensiefen, a 17-year-old German exchange student from Morgantown.
Tubert's rise to the role of the No. 1 singles player for Huntington this season opened more than a few eyes, especially since he demoted the defending state champion in that division, teammate Robert Skolik, to No. 2 singles.
"It was a great experience,'' Tubert said of his first state tournament. "I had a lot of fun. I'm glad a lot of good came out of it.''
Tubert and Skolik teamed to take the No. 1 doubles crown, beating Alex Clay and Reid Bailey of Hurricane 6-0, 6-1.
After such success at an early age, the 15-year-old Tubert was asked about expectations of winning perhaps another three state titles at No. 1 singles for Huntington or pursuing opportunities elsewhere.
"I will probably stay, most likely,'' said Tubert, a lifelong Huntington resident. "I don't know about as much pressure. We'll see next year about the pressure. I'm just thinking right now mostly about what I'm going to do next. A lot of people leave next year - a lot of seniors will be gone. I'm excited to play other people, too.''
Josh Clay and Bill Wright took the No. 3 and No. 4 singles titles, respectively, for Huntington. Wright and Ian Gilliam captured the No. 2 doubles crown, and Clay and Campbell Neighborgall won at No. 3 doubles.
Hurricane's Bailey was taken down in the No. 2 finals for a second straight year, falling to Skolik 6-0, 6-1.
The only boys finals that didn't go straight sets involved George Washington players. Clay beat GW's Colton Murphy 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 and the Wright-Gilliam tandem topped the Patriots' Ryan Massinople and Casey Hudson 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
On the girls side, Huntington's Cassie Mercer (No. 1) and Katelyn McGuffin (No. 3) each won the same singles titles they took last year. Teammate Rachele Subik captured the No. 4 championship, and Parkersburg's Cassandra Powell interrupted the Highlanders' winning ways by prevailing at No. 2 singles.
"Our kids pulled it out,'' said Joanie Poole, Huntington's fourth-year girls coach. "They really played hard all weekend long.''
The Highlanders have now won three state titles under Poole to go along with a runner-up finish in 2010.
"It's the first time our No. 2 doubles team has beaten the Parkersburg team,'' Poole said, "so basically we pulled out all the stops to come out a winner.''
McGuffin, the team's only senior to make the state tournament, combined with Brianna Hutchison to take the No. 2 doubles title. Mercer and Kate Huck won at No. 1 doubles.
Poole said it was a satisfying finish to a season that had some questions at the outset.
"We didn't start off too hot,'' she said, "even though we only lost one senior [Sarah Cummings] - but she was a great player. It started off a little rocky, but we ended up pulling it together.''
Parkersburg's Amber Kesterson and Jennifer Riffle won at No. 3 doubles.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.