CHARLESTON - For Wheeling Park's C.J. Petrini, this has been a long time coming.
Since Petrini first stepped on the Patriots tennis court four years ago, she has been one of the top players in the Ohio Valley. But when it came to OVACs, regionals, and the state tournament, there always seemed to be someone standing in her way.
While there is still more tennis to play for Petrini - and a huge task coming her way today in the form of Huntington's Cassie Mercer - the Wheeling Park senior is an all-state performer for the first time in her career after winning her first two matches Thursday at the West Virginia State Tennis Tournament at Coonskin Park.
Wheeling Park’s C.J. Petrini returns a shot during Thursday’s action in Charleston.
Photo by Josh Strope
''It's very exciting being my senior year and my last state tournament,'' Petrini said. ''It's finally good to make it farther.
''I was really hoping for the best but I was confident I could make it this far.''
All-state players are the final four in No. 1 Singles and the final two in No. 2.
Petrini reaches the semifinals for the first time since she was a freshman playing at No. 2 Singles. Since moving up to No. 1 Singles, she has hit the proverbial brick wall in the quarterfinals.
That changed Thursday as Petrini advanced with ease.
Petrini defeated Martinsburg's Emily Widmeyer, 8-5, in the opening round before cruising past George Washington's Kristin White, 8-2, and barely breaking a sweat.
''(I played) not as well as I would have liked but I was very consistent and played smart,'' Petrini said. ''I played (White) a lot better than I did in my first match. I think it was a lot getting the nerves out and staying in control.
''My serves were good and I won all my service games.''
Petrini won her third match of the day when she and No. 1 Doubles partner Alli Hone topped Martinsburg's Widmeyer and Kim Van Dongen.
Petrini will start today off with Hone as they take on the George Washington duo of White and Marie Skaff.
Then comes the tough one.
Petrini will take on defending champion Mercer - they previously met in a doubles match that went to Mercer, the granddaughter of Wheeling tennis product Don Mercer and daughter of Marshall coach John Mercer.
''It's an honor to be playing her, that's for sure,'' Petrini said. ''It's not the best draw. She is amazing and very impressive.
''I have to play very aggressive and just stick to my game. I can't get intimidated and that is probably the biggest thing.''
Petrini was the lone local bright spot in the Class AAA field and is the only remaining singles player. Wheeling Park's Lexie Patterson and John Marshall's Bret Nadolski earned first-round victories before bowing out in the second round.
Along with Petrini and Hone, Wheeling Park's Patterson and Emily Capehart (No. 2) and Jacopo Chiarlo and Zac Marra (No. 2) remain in doubles.
Petrini won't be the only local receiving a plaque Saturday morning as Weirton Madonna's Nick Conforti also reached the No. 1 Singles semifinals and earned a place on the all-state team.
The Blue Dons junior defeated Braxton County's Nathan Peters, 8-0, in the opener. He had a tougher time with Bluefield's Justin Freund in the second round before prevailing, 8-5.
Conforti will take on Huntington St. Joe's Max Meade in the semifinals. Meade was the runner-up last season.
Conforti gets the second day of action kick started in the doubles tournament, teaming with younger brother, Matt. Matt received a bye at No. 2 Singles, but was defeated by Oak Hill's Alex White, 8-5.
Wheeling Central's Jacob Mayles and Brett Szeligo are in the bottom half of the No. 1 Doubles bracket, still alive after winning their opener, 8-5.
Wheeling Central's Jonathan Haley survived a tiebreaker to down Moorefield's Kevin Judy, 9-8(7) in No. 3 Singles. He will face Charleston Catholic's Jad Malas today.
On the girls' side, Charleston Catholic is looking strong again as Wheeling Central is trying to position itself in the running for second.
Sophomore Joanna Capito advanced to Friday action in No. 2 Singles, beating St. Joe's Beth Sutfin, 8-2, after resting for the first round.
Capito will also play doubles with older sister, Natalie, after an 8-0 victory in the first round.
Natalie won her first match at No. 1 Singles, but lost in a tiebreaker, 9-8(7) to Carly Killmer of Shady Spring, just missing out on an all-state team. Brynn Jenkins was eliminated in the first round at No. 3 Singles.
Regional champion at No. 3 Singles, Haley Spurlock of Oak Glen, moved on to the semifinals with an 8-2 victory against Grafton's Brittany Alexander. Spurlock will play Charleston Catholic's Christina Centofanti today.