By TONY VIOLA
WEST LIBERTY - The No. 1 boys' singles final of the Class AA-A Region 1 tennis tournament lived up to its billing.
Photo by Tony Viola
Madonna’s Matt Conforti returns a shot against Wheeling Central’s Jonathon Haley during the regional championship of the No. 1 boys singles match Friday at West Liberty. Conforti won 8-6.
With a swing of the racket and a pump of the fist, Madonna's Matt Conforti won the 80-minute match, 8-6, against Wheeling Central's Jonathon Haley to help lead the Blue Dons to their first regional championship in school history Friday afternoon at the Edgar Martin Tennis Complex on the campus of West Liberty University.
The Maroon Knights finished the tournament second and the Oak Glen girls repeated as champions.
Conforti, the top seed in the tournament, clinched his fourth consecutive regional championship and his first at No. 1 singles with his previous three coming at the No. 2 spot.
The victory wasn't easy.
Haley battled back from a 5-1 deficit to make it a tight match, but Conforti came though in the clutch.
''I made the shots I needed to make,'' the Blue Dons senior said. ''I went for more shots at the end then I did at the beginning and it paid off.
''It's not every day you have a match that long. I was getting tired towards the end, but luckily I was able to find more energy.''
Conforti will lead a group of Madonna players, including Thomas Gianni (No. 2 singles), Alan Alimario (the No. 4 singles champ), Ryan Watts (No. 3 doubles), and Cole Roberts (No. 3 doubles), to the state tournament on May 15-17 at the Kanawha City Community Center Tennis Courts and Coonskin Park Tennis Courts in Charleston.
At the beginning of the season, the Blue Dons weren't going to have enough players to fill out their boys team, so Conforti took it upon himself to recruit both Watts and Roberts to join the team. Once they agreed, Conforti trained them. In their first year playing tennis, the two claimed the No. 3 doubles regional crown.
''This was just their first year and they're already going to states,'' Madonna coach Kelly Sinsigalli said. ''That really says a lot about Matt.''
Wheeling Central sophomore Gus Schmidt won his first regional title at No. 2 singles. He joined Haley at No. 1 doubles to defeat Conforti and Gianni, 8-1.
Billy Teufel also earned a regional championship for the Maroon Knights as he defeated top seeded Nick Williams of Ravenswood, 8-3, at No. 3 singles.
The Blue Dons' girls team, who finished second in the tournament, also will be sending down Ali Welch (No. 1 singles, No. 1 doubles), Elizabeth Conforti (the No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles champ), Morgan Duerr (the No. 4 singles and No. 2 doubles champ), and Tina Conforti (No. 1 doubles) to the state tournament.
Wheeling Central's Joanna Capito, the top seed in the tournament, repeated as a regional champion at No. 1 singles with a 8-2 victory against the Golden Bears' Haley Spurlock.
''She's trying to get her hands on the crown,'' Central coach Peggy Dailer said. ''We'll see how she does.''
Spurlock will be joined by No. 2 singles champion Madison Juszczak and No. 3 singles runner-up Madison Hill in Charleston.
Juszczak won a state title last year at No. 4 singles as a freshman and has only three career losses in two years of varsity tennis. She beat East Fairmont's Cara Laswell to earn her regional title.
Juszczak teamed with Spurlock at No. 1 doubles and beat Madonna's duo of Welch and Conforti, 8-3, in the regional finals.
''Haylee Spurlock is only 85 pounds, but she's a beast,'' Oak Glen coach Ken Keller said. ''She just keeps on turning it on. She's really, really good.''
John Marshall's Hayden Blazer finished runner up in No. 1 singles to punch his ticket to the state tournament. The senior fell to Parkersburg's Alexander D'Costa, 8-1, at the Region 1 tournament at the Erickson All-Sports Facility in Parkersburg. The Monarchs finished the tournament fourth with four points, while Brooke and Wheeling Park rounded out the top seven, respectively. Parkersburg earned the overall title with 19 points.