By JOSH STROPE
WEST LIBERTY - In tennis where it is 1-on-1 or 2-on-2, it's often hard to focus on the ''team'' aspect of the sport, especially when much of the attention centers around the No. 1 or No. 2 players.
PHOTO BY JOSH STROPE
Weirton Madonna’s Matt Conforti lets loose with a serve during regional tennis action Friday at West Liberty. Brother, Nick, was his partner.
Friday in the West Virginia Class AA/A Region One Tournament, Wheeling Central coach Peggy Dailer saw firsthand just how important a part the lower-ranked players can play.
Jonathan Haley and Daniel Lee won at No. 3 and No. 4 singles, respectively, as well as teaming up to capture the No. 2 Doubles title. On the girls' side, Christine Gompers won at No. 4 Singles.
Those deep runs helped the Maroon Knights capture both Region One championships, sending eight total players to next week's state tournament in Charleston.
''I am very proud of these kids,'' Dailer said. ''They have worked very hard to get where they are. The 3s and 4s did so wonderful and that is really what allowed us to go down state. It isn't always the top players, it's a team thing. Our kids have that drive like you wouldn't believe and they really step up when it counts.''
Dailer was especially happy for Gompers, a senior that didn't make the trip last season. She was up 5-2 in the final against Parkersburg Catholic's Erica Tracewell.
Tracewell came back and took the lead but Gompers regained it and held on, 9-7.
''I was so happy Christine won,'' Dailer said. ''When she didn't get to go last year, I was heartbroken for her. It meant a lot for me to see her get to go this year. She has worked really hard so she was able to go.''
Haley defeated Oak Glen's Josh Lehman, 8-6, for the No. 3 title (Lehman still gets to go as the finalists at No. 3 are qualifiers) and Lee topped Point Pleasant's Josh Parsons, 8-6, to capture the lone No. 4 Singles spot.
They teamed together to beat Ryan Leo and Alex Gedon of Williamstown, 8-5.
Wheeling Central won the girls' title with 20 points, four ahead of runner-up Parkersburg Catholic. The boys' side had 18 points, as Weirton Madonna and Oak Glen finished tied for second with 14 points.
It wasn't just the younger players that did it for Wheeling Central as state runner-up at No. 2 Singles, Joanna Capito, captured her second straight regional championship, beating Taylor Youell of Ravenswood, 8-4, in the finals.
Wheeling Central had a player in each of the four girls' singles finals. Natalie Capito (No. 1) fell to Parkersburg Catholic freshman Ariel Shulman, 8-0, and Brynn Jenkins (No. 3) lost to Oak Glen's Haley Spurlock in a tiebreaker, 9-8 (7).
The top two singles titles and No. 1 Doubles crown on the boys' side reside in the Conforti household.
Nick Conforti didn't qualify for the singles tournament last season but won his first regional title when the junior bested Williamstown's Luke Flanagan, 9-7, in the finals.
His younger brother, Matt, who had a solid showing last season in Charleston as a freshman, won at No. 2 Singles by beating Oak Glen's Zach Brown, 8-4.
The siblings won a marathon point against Wheeling Central's Jacob Mayles and Brett Szeligo to earn the final game, 8-6, for the doubles title. The Confortis won five of the last six games.
Alex Bennett and Teddy Adkins of Oak Glen punched their ticket to Charleston by winning No. 3 Doubles.
Kate Clowes and Audrey Eisenmann of Parkersburg Catholic were the No. 3 Doubles champs.
MORGANTOWN - The Morgantown boys and University girls picked up right where they left off at the OVAC Tournament, each capturing Region One championships.
Wheeling Park was the runner-up in both the boys' and the girls' events.
On the boys' side, Shaun Hunley of Wheeling Park defeated Brett Nadolski of John Marshall to win the No. 2 Singles title. Jacopo Chiarlo and Zac Marra won at No. 2 Doubles.
Non-winners qualifying for the state tournament are John Marshall's Hayden Blazer (No. 1) Nadolski, and Wheeling Park's Mitch Baranski.
No locals won on the girls' side but punching a ticket to Charleston are Wheeling Park's C.J. Petrini (No. 1), Lexi Patterson (No. 2 Singles, Doubles), Alli Hone (No. 1 Doubles) and Emily Capehart (No. 2 Doubles) and John Marshall's Mallory Zinn (No. 1 Singles).