Locals head to state tourney

CHARLESTON – The Ohio Valley will be well-represented Thursday when the West Virginia State Tennis Championships begin.

Coonskin Park is playing host to the Class AA-A event this year. There, local netters will compete in all but one event.

Wheeling Central has seven qualifiers, including six on the boys’ side. Oak Glen’s girls will have six playing, while Madonna has three participants.

Madonna has a small, but strong, contingent led by brothers Nick and Matt Conforti.

Nick and Matt both won regional titles at No. 1 and No. 2 Singles, respectively. Then, they teammed up to claim the No. 1 Doubles title.

It was the third straight season the Confortis won regional crowns. Nick, a senior, enters state tournament play with a 22-0 mark.

Ali Welch, runner up at regionals, will compete for the Blue Dons at No. 2 Singles.

The Golden Bears girls are in every event but No. 2 Singles.

”We’re matched up with Charleston Catholic quite a bit and Charleston Catholic is always good,” Oak Glen coach Ken Keller said. ”So, we’ll just do our best and have a good time. They are all very excited to go down.”

Keller didn’t know if the six qualifiers was the most in school history, but it is a recent high for the school, which plays its matches at the courts at Mountaineer.

”We really appreciate them letting us use them,” Keller said.

Hailey Spurlock has, in essence, taken on a leadership role for the Golden Bears as she is the only player on the team with state tournament experience. She played at No. 3 Singles and will compete for the No. 1 Singles crown this year.

Abbi Sayre and Madison Juszczak will compete at No. 3 and No. 4 Singles, respectively. In doubles, the Golden Bears will be represented by the duos of Spurlock and Juzczak (No. 1), Sayre and Anna Crawford (No. 2) and Lauren Pizzurro and Madison Hill (No. 3).

The Maroon Knights boys are coming off a Region One championship where titles in three events were secured. Powerhouse Charleston Catholic has won the last seven state crowns, but Central coach Peggy Dailer is eager to see how things play out.

”I’ve seen the draw and a couple of guys will run into some tough competition right off the bat,” she said. ”But they’ll be up to the challenge.

”They always give 100 percent no matter who they play.”

Jonathan Haley, a junior, is in the hunt at No. 1 Singles, one year after competing at No. 3 Singles. Senior Brett Szeligo will compete at No. 2 Singles, with Region One champ Gus Schmidt, in the mix at No. 3 Singles.

Haley and Szeligo will team up at No. 1 Doubles, while Schmidt and Daniel Lee join forces at No. 2 Doubles.

”They’ve had a wonderful year with only two losses,” Dailer said. ”So we’re looking for good things out of them.”

Ben Gordon and Billy Teufel will represent Central at No. 3 Doubles.

”Charleston Catholic is always tough,” Dailer said when describing the tournament field. ”Bluefield, Huntington St. Joe, they are all very strong teams.

”But so are we.”

Wheeling Central boasts one girls’ entrant, but she’s a strong one in Joanna Capito.

”Joanna has a good draw, I think,” Dailer said of the junior.

Capito won the regional title at No. 1 Singles last week and earned all-state honors the last two years.

”She’s determined to become an all-stater for the third time,” Dailer said. ”She works very hard in practice all the time.”

Across the river at the Kanawha City Community Tennis Center, Class AAA action will take place.

Wheeling Park and John Marshall both have two qualifiers.

John Marshall is sending two players to state in Hayden Blazer and Alaina Pauley. Both will compete at No. 1 Singles.

Wheeling Park will be represented by the No. 1 Doubles duo of Shaun Hunley and Mitch Baranski.