Tennis Love Runs in Family

WHEELING – For Tracy Marra, a picture really was worth a million words.

Or hundreds of miles.

At an early-season tennis tournament in Morgantown this spring, she was able to get a picture of her three sons – Wheeling Park senior Zac, sophomore Ollie and freshman Dante – playing on consecutive courts in what has to be rare, yet priceless, photo.

Just a reminder that the day she had been waiting for had finally arrived.

“I’ve been waiting for this year for a long time,” she said, while preparing to watch her youngest son, Dante, and his doubles partner Doug MacNealy play Madonna’s Ryan Watts and Cole Roberts (Watts and Roberts, the No. 3 seeded No. 3 doubles team entering Monday’s play, won that match 8-4) in a boys doubles match at the Wheeling Park tennis bubble Monday morning.

It was all part of the first day of the OVAC Tennis Tournament.

“It’s really great to finally have them all at one school, all playing together on the same team.”

It almost happened in the fall, or so she thought, until Dante opted to golf while the older brothers were members of the soccer team.

It did, however, happen in the spring, and all three brothers are, amazingly enough, on different doubles teams.

Zac teams with Shaun Hunley on the No. 1 seed boys doubles team, Ollie teams with Jared Jorden on the No. 2 doubles team and Dante and MacNealy are the No. 3 doubles team.

That it happened at all is a matter of a well-intended comment by a junior kindergarten teacher that turned a little hand-eye coordination matter into a near life-long love affair with the game of tennis.

“Zac was in J-K3 (junior kindergarten for three-year-olds) and they had been doing some games that involved hand-eye coordination,” Tracy said. “His teacher told me Zac’s hand-eye coordination was a little off. She said I should sign him up for tennis. He tried it and he really liked it. He has been playing since.”

Shortly after he signed up, he began taking lessons from local teaching pro Missy Bailey.

That is about the time Shane Earley, another local pro, who worked with Bailey, entered the picture.

“Missy called me one day and said, ‘I’ve got this kid you need to take a look at,'” Earley said. “So, I meet the kid, he’s probably about 12. After we hit some balls, I remember thinking, ‘He reminds me of myself at that age.'”

Which is pretty good, considering that Earley was a member of three West Virginia Wesleyan teams that advanced to the NCAA Division 2 Sweet 16.

It’s more an irony that Earley is back coaching the Wheeling Park team this spring.

He had been a teaching pro in Newport Beach, Calif.

A family medical situation brought him back to West Virginia and the job, which he had been contacted about earlier, was still open.

“I’d been in California for a couple years,” Earley said. “When I got back, I saw the job was still open and I applied. It’s really ironic that I worked with a lot of these boys and now they are on this team.”

None of the Marra’s won Monday.

In addition to Dante and MacNealy losing to Madonna’s doubles team of Watts and Roberts, Zac Marra and Hunley lost to John Marshall’s Hayden Blazer and Tyler Keller 8-4 after winning their opening match against Weir. Ollie Marra and Jorden fell to University after beating St. Clairsville in their opening match.

Their mother was at least happy she got to see them all in one building.

Blazer and Keller ended up winning the OVAC Boys Class 5-A No. 1 seed doubles championship

After nearly losing in their opening match, Blazer and Keller caught fire and ran through the top seeds en route to victory, beating Grant Tebay and Garrett Dailey of Parkersburg South 8-6 in the championship match.

In the No. 2 doubles final, Steven Wu and Adam McKnight of Morgantown defeated Parkersburg South’s Camilo Sarzosa and Alexander Herring 8-3.

In No. 3 doubles, Parkersburg South’s Franklin Miller and Evan Fleak defeated Annie Nehrbas and Dominic DiCarlo of Steubenville 8-5.

Parkersburg South currently leads the team race with 10 points, followed by Morgantown with seven points and John Marshall, Linsly and Madonna with four each. Cambridge, Steubenville and University have three, Wheeling Central, Wheeling Park and East Liverpool two and Brooke with one.

A team champion and runner-up in both 1A-4A and 5A will be determined at the end of singles play.

John Marshall’s Blazer is the top seed in the boys No. 1 singles tournament as well. The boys singles event will be played Wednesday, likely back at the Wheeling Park tennis bubble. The event, originally scheduled for West Liberty, was moved due to inclement weather.

The girls doubles tournament will be today at the tennis bubble with the girls singles tournament scheduled for Thursday. Tennis begins at 8:30 a.m.