Class AAA tennis: One year after falling short in final, George Washington girls and Hurricane boys go out on top

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Redemption was the name of the game across the team portion of the Class AAA state tennis tournament.

One year after both squads suffered 4-3 losses in the finals, the George Washington girls and Hurricane boys got over the hump Saturday at the Kanawha Valley YMCA.

The Patriots’ girls team wrapped up its state championship first by virtue of a 4-1 win against University, which defeated GW in last season’s final after the Patriots were forced to forfeit two matches as a result of injury.

“They’d practiced an entire year for this exact goal,” Patriots’ head coach Taylor Rose said. “They’ve given everything this season while going undefeated and this was their ultimate goal. They just met it.”

For the Redskins, their second championship in three seasons also came by a 4-1 margin against Cabell Midland, which finished last season on top by defeating Hurricane.

“The big thing throughout this season is we kept winning and playing with confidence,” Hurricane head coach Andy Ball said. “They didn’t think they could miss a shot they had so much confidence. They kept the ball in play and played long points and that’s their mentality.”

GWHS garnered its first team title since 2018 on the strength of going 3-0 in doubles play against UHS.

In the No. 1 match, Nadia Orcutt and Francesca Charles teamed for an 8-2 win over the Hawks’ Lyla Byers and Emma Dafner.

There was also an 8-2 victory for the Patriots’ No. 2 doubles team of Rya Jones and Shweta Patel against Emma Rusiecki and Julianne Minchau, while the No. 3 team of Emilia Stacy and Emma Ratrie joined forces for an 8-3 victory over Hannah Stemple and Brooklyn Rutledge.

Ratrie sustained the injury at the 2023 state tournament that forced in the No. 4 singles and No. 2 doubles matches.

“We won all the doubles throughout the entire tournament, and that set us up to be leading 3-0 going into singles,” Patriots’ assistant coach Emily Thayer said. “That was huge for us.”

Byers was an 8-3 winner in the No. 1 singles match against Orcutt to provide University with its lone point, before Charles wrapped up the necessary fourth point to secure her team’s win by knocking off Rusiecki, 8-5.

Prior to battling for the championship, University and George Washington had advanced with separate victories. The Hawks defeated Cabell Midland and Parkersburg 4-1, while the Patriots got past Jefferson and Morgantown, 4-0.

“We’ve had this goal and throughout the season, they got better to get to this point,” Rose said.

The Hurricane boys team followed a similar script to that of the GW girls, winning all three doubles matches and one of the two singles matches that finished to claim its desired hardware.

Hurricane’s boys tennis team won Class AAA. Photo by Greg Carey

Jacob Smolder and Zach Giertz got by the Knights’ Ashton Cottrell and Jack Erwin for an 8-5 victory in No. 1 doubles, while Elias Kave and Kellen Pauley topped Rayan Oudghiri-Otmani and Kalel Chattin 8-2 in the No. 2 doubles match.

Grant Knapp and Blake Shamblin’s 8-4 win against Hayden Smith and Ethan McNeely in No. 3 doubles left HHS in complete control with a 3-0 lead.

“They’re conditioned that if they’re on the court, it’s 100 percent effort 100 percent of the time,” Ball said. “That’s the only thing they know. Focus on every point and once they walk on the court, they don’t have to worry about thinking they’re going to win. The opponent is the ball and their consistency is so good.”

While Oudghiri-Otmani scored an 8-6 victory over Kave in No. 3 singles to provide CMHS with a point, Smolder’s 8-6 win against Cottrell in a tightly-contested No. 1 singles match sealed the result.

In advance of meeting in the final, Hurricane defeated University and Washington 4-0, while Cabell Midland also recorded a pair of 4-0 victories over Jefferson and Morgantown.

There was no shortage of familiarity between HHS and CMHS — two schools separated by less than 13 miles.

“The two best teams in the state are 20 minutes apart and these kids take clinics together, they’re good friends and hang around with each other,” Ball said. “But when they get on a tennis court, it’s all business and all wanting to win.”

Wheeling Park, in 2006, is the last non-active Mountain State Athletic Conference member to win a Class AAA boys tennis championship.

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