Class AAA singles: University’s Byers rolls to repeat title; Hurricane’s Smolder breaks through

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — University’s Lyla Byers wanted a similar feeling to what she experienced last season.

Hurricane’s Jacob Smolder was out for a far different ending.

Mission accomplished for both Byers and Smolder, who won Class AAA singles state championships Saturday afternoon at the Kanawha City Community Center.

Byers notched her second straight singles title, and did so in dominant fashion again with a 6-0, 6-0 victory against Wheeling Park’s Madeline Bradshaw.

“I trusted myself and trusting every shot,” Byers said. “The big thing in this match was staying relaxed and hitting through the ball and not trying to overpower or do anything extra.”

A season ago, Byers dropped one set while claiming the singles title against George Washington’s Nadia Orcutt.

She was even more dominant this time around, scoring a pair of 8-0 victories Friday in opening-round and quarterfinal matches, and then started Saturday with an 8-4 win against Washington’s Angeline Almeyda in a semifinal.

“I’ve practiced every day and I’ve worked a lot on my forehand,” said Byers, who credited her work at Gomez Tennis Academy in Naples, Florida for her continued improvement throughout the offseason. “Last year, I was switchings up a little bit and changing some form. Worked on that to make that more consistent and I’ve finally started to play aggressive from both sides and coming to the net and pushing forward in points.” 

Not long after Byers secured her spot in the final, so, too, did Bradshaw, who won a tightly-contested semifinal over Orcutt, 9-8 (7-3). In that match, Bradshaw overcame a 3-0 deficit to start the tiebreaker.

The semifinal matches were played in chillier conditions for May standards, before the sun broke through during finals matches.

“This morning was very cold, so it was hard to get warmed up and started, but it was nice to play in beautiful weather,” Byers said.

For Smolder, it was just the ending he’d hoped for after falling short at last year’s state tournament when he was eliminated in the semifinal round.

The WVSSAC State Tennis Tournament wrapped up Saturday. Class AAA singles play was held outdoors at the Kanawha City Community Center. Photo by Greg Carey

In the final, Smolder faced a familiar opponent in Cabell Midland’s Ashton Cottrell, and he utilized a strong start to build confidence through the match en route to a 6-3, 6-1 victory.

“That definitely provided a cushion for me. I was able to be more confident in my shots and being a couple games up helped me stay loose,” Smolder said.

Familiarity with his opponent was also beneficial, according to Smolder.

“I’ve already played him six times in one season, so I pretty much knew what to expect,” he said. “Tried to make balls high with heavy top spin and keep my head.”

To reach the final, Smolder had to defeat teammate Zachary Giertz, 8-1. On Friday, Smolder had qualified for the semifinal round by first getting past Morgantown’s Larry Du, 8-0, and then scoring an 8-2 victory against Princeton’s John Paul Choate.

“It feels awesome knowing all those countless hours on the court and working out finally paid off,” Smolder said. “Now I’m going to go home and rest.”

Cottrell was involved in a competitive semifinal and knocked off Huntington’s Ryan Patterson 8-6 to advance to the title match.

— — — — —

All-Tournament Teams

Class AAA Girls:

Lyla Byers, University

Madeline Bradshaw, Wheeling Park

Molly Archer, Huntington

Savannah Allen, Hurricane

Angeline Almeyda, Washington

Olivia Akers, Huntington

Olivia Morrison, Cabell Midland

Nadia Orcutt, George Washington

Class AAA Boys:

Jacob Smolder, Hurricane

Ashton Cottrell, Cabell Midland

John Paul Choate, Princeton

Ram Aaithambi, Woodrow Wilson

Zachary Giertz, Hurricane

Ryan Patterson, Huntington

Kalman Nagy, University

Samir Jones, George Washington

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