Prep tennis: Ripley doubles team earns trip to states
Ripley Coach Greg Varney feels the pressure of the Region 3 tennis tournament as much as his players.
The Class AAA Region 3 tournament began Thursday with doubles action and continues today with singles play (9 a.m.) at Schoenbaum Courts in Kanawha City.
"My No. 1 doubles team has struggled today," Varney said before the completion of Thursday's play.
The veteran coach experienced more success this season than ever before, but that doesn't mean he is ready to go home.
Emily Munson and Kaitlyn White, the No. 1 doubles team for the Vikings, found themselves in uncharted territory Thursday - seeded second in their bracket with an opportunity to make the state tournament.
They qualified for next week's state field by defeating Riverside, 8-3, in the consolation match. Regional tournaments send three No. 1 doubles teams to states: the finalists and the consolation winner.
"It's been at least 10 years since a doubles team from Ripley has made the state tournament," Ripley assistant coach Steve Hunt said. "In fact, no one remembers the last time doubles made the state tournament."
Before Thursday's regional play, Munson, the No. 1 singles player, was the only member of the Ripley team to make the state tournament. She did so last year as a singles player.
Munson and White scraped through their quarterfinal match up with Shady Spring winning 9-8 (9-7) in a tiebreaker. The duo then fell, 9-7, to Beckley - a team they beat during the regular season, 8-5.
Ripley then put away Riverside to survive and advance another week.
Munson and White came into the regional tournament with a 13-2 record with losses to Huntington and George Washington.
White is new to the Ripley team this year.
"She was my No. 1 in eighth grade, but she hasn't played since," Varney said.
Sometimes that inexperience shows.
While Munson and White were duking it out for the final qualifying spot in first doubles, the No. 2 doubles team of Tyler Barickman and Arin Shatto made the finals in their bracket.
Barickman and Shatto also will make another trip to Charleston next week as part of the state tournament field.
There are eight state qualifiers at No. 2 doubles.
Barickman and Shatto defeated Oak Hill (8-0) and Beckley (8-3) to qualify before losing to George Washington in the finals, 8-2.
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THE GREENBRIER EAST girl's tennis team doesn't struggle for athleticism or talent.
Bianca Andre plays second doubles for the Spartans.
"She hasn't really played much tennis but she is a great athlete and picked it up fast," Greenbrier East Coach Norm Ahern said.
Andre, a senior, has recently committed to Gardner-Webb to play basketball after two seasons in the East basketball program.
As a junior, she led the Greenbrier East basketball team to a 52-47 victory over Bridgeport in the Class AAA state championship game.
"She is one of the best basketball players in the state, it is really neat to see her as just one of the girls on the tennis team," Ahern said.
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BROOKE RUMBAUGH and Erica Howell, Riverside's No. 3 doubles team, lost to Ripley 8-6 in their quarterfinal match
They won the same match last week in the MSAC Tournament.
"I'd trade that win last week for one this week - and 100 dollars," Riverside Coach Greg Hendricks said. "But seeding doesn't matter in third doubles because you have to win it all."
That isn't a problem for Hendricks.
"The only ones that complain are the ones that don't make it," he said.
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STAN WHITE'S time as director of the regional tournament goes all the way back to 1972 when there was still a Marmet High School.
He said this is his last year, but who knows? White loves tennis and it shows during the annual high school tournaments.
"The kids that are here are dedicated and it shows," White said. "There are more participants now than ever before."
Still, he misses the 1980s.
"Charleston was a hot bed for tennis then," White said. "Tennis is a life-long sport. We ought to promote it more," he said.