Catholic girls tennis on brink of state title

JOE ALBRIGHT The Marietta Times Parkersburg Catholic's Hannah Sprout returns a shot from her Class AA/A state semifinal opponent Friday at Charleston, W.Va's Schoenbaum Courts. Sprout advanced to the state final.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Program first opportunities await the Parkersburg Catholic girls’ tennis team and Ravenswood’s Max Hilton in the championship matches of the Class AA/A state tournament this morning. One win by any of the Crusaders’ five finalists awards the blue and white clad ladies the school’s third net team title, while a Hilton victory against Grafton’s French transfer-student Emilien Brazilier makes him the inaugural Red Devils’ No. 1 boys’ singles champion.

This position won’t be foreign to the Red Devils’ top player of the last three seasons. Hilton watched friend and Parkersburg Catholic’s top player Nash Morris recover against him from down a set and two games in the best-of-three finals two seasons ago. He then fell to Winfield’s John Bowman in the second round a year ago. Hilton plans not to be on the losing end in his senior year.

“People always say there are more important things when you are out of high school but right now this state championship is the most important thing on my mind,” said Hilton, who bested Parkersburg Catholic’s Aiden Roberts 6-0, 6-0 in their semifinal matchup. “I just like that I have a competitive head and have worked really hard coming into this match and I know both these guys are tough players but I feel confident mentally and physically coming in.”

He then joined teammate Ethan Rawson in the No. 1 doubles final later in the evening after a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Winfield’s top pair. It was a performance head coach Sam Hilton came away pleased with as the likely foe is Huntington St. Joe, which beat the Red Devils in the regional tournament.

“They have been playing well all season and we had a tough match against the kids from St. Joe, but those two (Rawson and Hilton) have played lights out in the tournament so far and we will be ready,” said Sam, who watched his top duo drop just four games in the entire tournament.

Roberts’ counterpart, Marie Discini, faced stiff competition from Wheeling Central’s Laina Anderson, but wrestled away a straight set win from the Maroon Knight. The two-time defending state champion now faces friend and two-time state runner-up to her, Huntington St. Joe’s Audrey Heaberlin, in the finals for a third consecutive year.

“We knew Laina was going to give her a tough time,” said head coach Jason Discini on his daughter. “We just kept telling Marie to go tso the well of experience she has gained from playing all over the country and in the biggest matches and it will serve you well and she did that.”

Teammates Hannah Sprout and Taylor Isaly joined her shortly after as winners of a No. 2 and No. 3 semifinals respectively. Neither player faced a potentially threatening challenge during their two-set victories.

Sprout now sets her sights on consecutive state titles, while Isaly hopes to continue a marvelous freshman season with the ultimate prize. Not much will catch her off guard today after she recovered down triple-match point for a victory against Keyser’s regional champion Ashleigh Burgess in her opening round match Thursday.

All hope for a happy ending won’t be lost if Isaly falls in her singles’ matchup however, she can still earn bragging rights and a gold-medal finish with a victory in the No. 1 doubles final. Partner Marie and herself overpowered Wheeling Central’s Anderson and Danielle Agcaoili 6-2, 6-1.

Sprout and MacKenzie Campbell joined their teammates in the finals under the lights around 9:50 p.m.

Both Sprout and Discini seek their first doubles’ titles after falling short as the top duo the past two seasons.

Individual state titles are up for grabs for the boys. No. 3 doubles team Andrew Shaw and Ethan Lang along with No. 4 singles’ player Bradon Nguyen join their female teammates in the year’s closing matches. Despite the misfortune of the boys, Discini loved the way all of his players played the last two days.

“I would love to be standing her saying both my boys and girls were competing for the title but I am thrilled how everyone played,” said Discini. “Ethan and Andrew battled back down 3-0 and Bradon had a dominant performance today.”

The goal for the finals is simple.

“We want to come back with a lot of luggage and a lot of souvenirs,” said Discini.