Prep tennis: Irish coach hopes tough schedule pays off
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Charleston Catholic Coach David Sadd scheduled aggressively to challenge his boys tennis program, which has won seven consecutive Class AA/A state championships.
The boys team navigated that schedule, which was littered with Class AAA competition, undefeated. The girls team, however, struggled against the ambitious slate and finished with a losing team record.
Even so, both Irish teams qualified all seven positions for the Class AA/A state tournament, which begins at 8 a.m. today at the Charleston Catholic Athletic Facility.
The Catholic girls went undefeated against Class AA and Class A schools and are looking to capture the program's sixth consecutive state title this week. The tournament concludes Saturday with the state title matches.
"We were focused on trying to get the boys a schedule of matches that would give them the best challenge, which I feel like I owe them as a coach," Sadd said. "The girls were competitive in most. I think it made the girls better."
Both teams have state tournament experience.
The Irish boys and girls teams each had six individual titles last season.
Mark Cassis is back at No. 1 singles and will chase a boys state title after losing in the finals last season. Jed Malas, the defending champion at No. 3 singles and No. 1 doubles (with Cassis) is back at the same positions.
Claire Hamilton, the No. 2 singles champion a year ago, has moved up a rung as the top seed.
"We've got all seven spots on the girls side so just that alone makes me feel good about the opportunity we have because we can point at every position," Sadd said. "Whether or not everybody is going to win, I don't know."
The Catholic boys have won eight of the last nine state championships in Class AA/A. St. Joseph was the last team to interrupt that streak with a state title in 2005.
The Irish girls could match its state-title streak of six, which also occurred from 1999-2004. Wheeling Central, Petersburg and Bluefield won state titles in consecutive years before the Catholic girls returned to dominance in 2008.
Overall, Catholic's girls program has won 12 of 18 state titles since the tournament split into two classifications in 1995.
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ST. JOSEPH No. 1 Max Meade begins his state title defense today. He won the Class AA/A title as a freshman, defeating Charleston Catholic's Mark Cassis in three sets - 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 - for the championship.
Meade lost all three regular-season meetings to Cassis before last season's finals clash. The same happened this year.
Cassis won 8-5 in both regular season matchups before hanging on for a 9-7 win in last week's Region 4 final.
Meade faces Fairmont Senior's Grant Holbert in the first round at 10 a.m. today. Cassis, who is on the opposite side of the draw, faces East Fairmont's Khris Musgrave in the first round at 11 a.m.
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LOGAN HAS five positions represented in the Class AAA boys field and three qualifiers on the girls side.
Zach Hatfield (No. 1 singles), Keith Williamson (No. 2 singles) and Luke Nelson (No. 3 singles) begin play today. Hatfield and Williamson are one of a dozen qualifiers at No. 1 doubles.
Lauren Chambers is back for her fourth consecutive appearance at states at No. 1 singles. She reached the quarterfinals as a freshman and sophomore and was ousted in the first round last year.
Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at email@example.com or 304-348-7949. Follow him on Twitter @chuckmcgill.