’Jackets claim runner-up honor

CHARLESTON – Ravenswood’s Taylor Youell won the only individual local crown here Saturday at the West Virginia state tennis tournament as both the Red Devil girls and the Williamstown boys claimed Class AA/A team runner-up honors while playing at Kanawha City’s Tennis Indoor Center.

The state runner-up finish for Ravenswood was extra sweet as not only did Youell, who will continue her collegiate career at the University of Charleston, cap an undefeated campaign, but her No. 2 singles triumph versus Ritchie County’s Olivia Haught in straight 6-2 sets allowed Red Devil head coach Butch Varney and assistant Tim Frazier to retire on a high note.

“You never take it for granted, but I was coming in pretty confident,” said Youell, who finished the season 4-0 against Haught. “I didn’t want to be too confident. I had a couple nerves with my backhand. It’s hasn’t been the strongest lately.

“I finally reached my goal. It’s a good way to end my high school career. It (her high school career) has finally come to an end, but I’m looking forward to being a Golden Eagle.”

Ravenswood’s girls finished with eight points and the Rebels took third by scoring seven, but the Little Kanawha Conference programs finished well behind state champion Charleston Catholic, which amassed 15 wins.

“Two years ago, we came up one point short (of a state runner-up finish),” noted Varney, who watched Youell and Alex McNabb fall 6-0 and 6-1 in the finals at No. 1 doubles to Charleston Catholic’s Claire Hamilton and Danielle Sadd. “I told the girls they put it together at the right time and focused. Right between their ears, they are determined young ladies and they show it in other sports, basketball and soccer.

“They are just good athletes. They’re great kids. This is my 33rd year and this is Tim’s fifth year, and we are going out in fine style. We’re both hanging it up. It’s time to give it to some young blood.”

Veteran Williamstown boys head coach Jay Carter’s Yellowjackets scored enough points the first two days to secure their runner-up effort. Although the Charleston Catholic boys won every single title and finished with a perfect score of 22, WHS posted nine points, which was two better than Bluefield.

The ‘Jackets had a shot at finishing with 11, but Aaron Leo suffered a 6-1, 6-0 setback at No. 2 singles to Scott Standish, while Leo and partner Luke Flangan fell 6-0 and 6-1 to Mark Cassis and Jad Malas in the finals at first doubles.

“It was a great season,” said Leo, who was proud of his all-state honors after losing as a sophomore last year in the opening round at No. 2 singles. “It’s going to be an exciting year next year. Hopefully, we’ll come out with a title.”

Coach Carter said the key to Williamstown’s success this spring was a tough schedule and learning from last year.

“At the end of last year, a lot of the guys were freshmen and sophomores, and we got down to the state tournament and we kind of like got busted bad,” said Carter, who has his entire team back for 2014. “There were so many good players and the boys at that time said we want to get better and we want to win this, and that’s what they decided to do.

“The thing is what impeded our progress was a team called Charleston Catholic, but our guys grew because we played Charleston Catholic three times. They are a great team, but we continued to battle and we grew up. I can’t tell you how great these young men have been. They have dedicated their heart and soul to the game of tennis.”

Parkersburg head coach Pam Reeves also has a dedicated group of student-athletes, but the Big Red tennis program suffered a rarity on Saturday as the red and white failed to capture a single finals match. PHS finished tied for fourth in the girls standings with University at seven points apiece. Huntington was the champion with 16 and Hurricane edged Morgantown for runner-up honors. The Big Red boys took third after collecting 11 points, but trailed champion George Washington (19) and runner-up Huntington (13).

The Big Reds faced off against George Washington in the two through four boys singles finals, but Patriots Zack Koenig, Nick Koenig and Thomas McIntosh all won. Alexander D’Costa lost 6-4 and 6-3 to Zack Koenig, Tris Spitsnaugle dropped a 6-2, 6-4 battle against Nick Koenig and Josh Roberts came up short to McIntosh by scores of 6-3 and 6-1.

The final match for the PHS boys also was a setback to George Washington as Big Reds Rhone Thrash and Landon Wells had to settle for second place at No. 3 doubles after falling in consecutive 6-3 sets to Peyton Moses and Ryan Mullins.

Huntington’s Cassie Mercer, who is off to play for the University of Virginia, ended her career in style by serving up two aces to close out a 6-1 and 6-4 first doubles victory with teammate Braddick Price against Big Reds Cassandra Powell and Amber Kesterson.

Jackson County wasn’t just represented by Ravenswood during Saturday’s finals. Ripley head girls coach Greg Varney watched sophomore Arin Shatto vie for a crown at No. 4 singles. However, Shatto came up short in straight 6-2 sets to University’s Meghan Zerkel, who suffered a knee injury during soccer season and had reached the semifinals at the No. 2 position a year ago.