Cadets’ Ekanem Takes Home OVAC Crown
WHEELING – Linsly’s Amika Ekanem kept her composure and never lost her smile.
During a 10-minute delay, when her opponent, Morgantown freshman Lexie Rosiello was taking a medical timeout with a blister and toe problem, Ekanem, a sophomore, stayed warm by having her family members toss balls from the other side of the net.
When Rosiello bravely came back and fought through her injury, Ekanem, while being compassionate, was able to close out the match 8-3, and win the OVAC No. 2 singles championship Thursday evening at the Wheeling Park tennis bubble.
“I really feel like I accomplished something,” Ekanem said. “I have won a USTA event, but to win the OVAC, I feel like I accomplished a lot. It’s high school tennis. It really means a lot to me to be able to win a championship.”
“I’m really happy for Amika because she worked so hard for this,” Coach Dave Riethmiller said. “She went out and played the way she has been playing all season.”
“I kept my eyes on the prize,” Ekanem said. “I stayed focused and I always thought I was going to win. You never go into a match thinking you are going to lose.”
She did, however, feel bad for her opponent, Rosiello.
“I don’t think it’s fair because it’s hard to play when you are injured and you know they can’t play their best. I had to play on a hurt knee once and it is hard. I felt bad for her.”
There was little suspense as far as the team champions heading into the four singles finals.
Both Morgantown and Linsly had wrapped up titles by that time, and Morgantown had a player in all four finals, while Linsly had two.
The battle for No. 1 was an epic duel between Abby Rosiello of Morgantown and Linsly’s Jackie McDermott.
Their opening game was a harbinger of things to come, as the two battled back-and-forth in a game that lasted nearly 30 minutes. Long volleys were showcased as the two went back-and-forth.
McDermott, a senior, went ahead 3-2, but steely junior Rosiello battled back to win the last six games and take the No. 1 singles title 8-3.
Even in the last game, the battles were long, one point took 22 shots and another took 14.
In the end, McDermott was candid about the match, and her season.
“I tried my hardest,” the Cadet senior said. “I really love tennis and I am definitely proud of the career I had. I had a great team, great teammates and two great coaches.”
“She played her hardest, and I’m proud of her,” Riethmiller said. “She ends her career with the school record for most singles wins. She had a great career and we are going to miss her.”
McDermott will head to Oberlin University to continue her tennis career this fall.
Abby Rosiello’s victory was the only victory by a Mohigan in the finals, but Morgantown didn’t need it.
Morgantown had 24 points to win the OVAC 5A team title. Crosstown rival University was second with 20 points. John Marshall finished third with eight points.
“We have a really good tennis program,” Morgantown coach Ted Greenlee said. “I really don’t have to do much coaching. I said probably 20 words to the kids all day. They know what to do.”
All four singles players return next season and Greenlee said there are two promising rising freshmen on the horizon.
It was Morgantown’s second title in three years.
University took the other two singles titles. Brooke Franklin took the No. 3 title beating Morgantown’s Sydney Kacik 8-0 and Cassidy Seaman won the No. 4 title with an 8-6 victory against Morgantown’s Lily McKnght.
Linsly is building a dynasty in the 1A to 4A classes.
The team title was the fourth in a row for the Cadets, who closed their season Thursday.
“I can’t say enough about our team, they all battled hard,” Riethmiller said. “Our No. 1 and No. 2 (McDermott and Ekanem) really carried us in this tournament. We won all four years Jackie was with us and that is something she can be proud of. This was our goal all year. I’m proud of this team.”
“It feels good, being the fourth one in a row,” Ekanem said. “We had a lot of new players this year but this is always our goal and it was nice to get the championship again.”