Mercer, Smolder win AAA state titles

May 13, 2019


CHARLESTON — One Mountain State prep tennis great exited the stage Saturday morning as another completed the first chapter of what promises to be a storybook career.

Huntington High senior J.J. Mercer put an exclamation point on a perfect high school record in Class AAA No. 1 boys singles with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Parkersburg sophomore Jacob Boone at the Tennis Indoor Center in Charleston. Mercer, who moves on to play at Ohio State University next year, finished an 80-0 prep singles career with the state tournament win.

The boys and girls No. 1 singles played side-by-side in the indoor configuration utilized by the Secondary School Activities Commission because of Saturday morning rain. As Mercer put forth a dominating performance, Hurricane freshman Lexie Smolder scrapped through her second set and into the history books with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Cabell Midland senior Channing Varnum.

Smolder took control of the second set late in her match, and as she got closer to the title the freshman’s emotions began to bleed through and into her performance. She said keeping those feelings at a level where

they were a benefit rather than a liability was key to her win.

“I was keeping the ball in the middle of the court and not going for as many winners,” she said. “If you are winning some points, you can hype yourself up. It keeps me in my (positive) mental state and I can stay focused throughout the whole match.”

Cabell Midland’s Hanley Riner defeated C.C. Weiler of Huntington High for the girls No. 2 singles crown, 6-2, 6-1. Riner claimed another state championship with Varnum in girls No. 1 doubles, winning 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 against the Morgantown duo of Emma McKnight and Cat Wassick.

Emma Whittaker from Winfield beat Taylor Isaly from Parkersburg Catholic in the Class AA-A girls No. 3 singles finals. Ginny Anderson and Divija Kottapalli of the Winfield Generals won in girls No. 2 doubles against Hannah Sprout and Mackenzie Campbell of Parkersburg Catholic, 6-2, 6-3.

Morgan Mann of Nitro downed Huntington St. Joe’s Armaan Karimpour for the Class AA-A boys No. 2 singles title, 7-5, 2-6, 6-4. Marie Discini from Parkersburg Catholic beat Audrey Heaberlin of Huntington St. Joe in girls No. 1 singles, 6-0, 6-1.

Grafton’s entry in Class AA-A boys No. 1 doubles defeated the Huntington St. Joe tandem of Hayden Cooper and Karimpour, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.

Sophia Gorby of Bridgeport took the Class AA-A girls No. 4 doubles match against Kenzie Scott from Logan, 6-1, 7-5.

Charleston Catholic’s Jonah Legg won in Class AA-A boys No. 3 singles against Chris Legg of Winfield, 6-4, 6-0.

It was a banner weekend for schools from Cabell, Putnam and Kanawha counties. A team from each of those counties finished in the top two in boys and girls of both Class AAA and Class AA-A.

The George Washington boys team won its 11th Class AAA title since 2005 while Cabell Midland was runner-up in the girls Class AAA race to champion Morgantown. In Class AA-A, the Charleston Catholic boys rallied to win their 10th title since 2006 and Winfield’s girls finished runner-up to Parkersburg Catholic.

Cabell Midland’s girls were looking for their first state title since 2000, and had a tough foe in Morgantown to overcome. The Knights won the No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles brackets, and were able to finish in second.

“We did have kind of a down day (Friday),” Knights coach Cynthia Machmer said. “We picked it back up today. I can’t complain. Our team was undefeated all season long. We were MSAC (Mountain State Athletic Conference) champs and regional champs. And to come in runner-up in the state, I’m just extremely proud of these girls.”

Rainy skies moved the tournament off the Schoenbaum courts in Kanawha City to two sites — the Class AAA competition across the street at the Tennis Indoor Center and the Class AA-A competition at the Charleston YMCA.