Courts Ready For West Virginia Open

WHEELING – The West Virginia Open tennis tournament will be played at the Oglebay and Hilltop courts, beginning Friday.

Formerly a two-day event, tournament directors Debbie Pickens and Brenda Matzke decided to oblige the many players who requested that the tournament be played as a three-day event.

This has allowed for more players to be available for this sectional tournament.

Approximately 70 players are in draws as of Tuesday, with more to be entered in the doubles event later in the week.

As the Middle States sectional clay court championship, the event draws nationally and sectionally ranked players, as well as locals.

In the men’s open singles, 2013 finalist Keith Whittingham, of Erie, Pa. returns as the number one seed to make a run at the title.

Despite participating in the event for years, Whittington said, “This may be my best shot at winning the West Virginia Open.”

Whittingham has been dividing his time between teaching tennis and competing. Recently he has played prize money tournaments and futures events. Playing in the qualifiers of the futures has provided a lot of tough competition in singles. In doubles, Whittingham has qualified for main draws and earned three ATP points.

The number two seed in the men’s open is Jeremy McClelland, currently employed by the Wheeling Park Commission as the Director of Tennis at Oglebay and Wheeling Parks. McClellandis a five-time West Virginia Open in men’s open singles and numerous times in men’s doubles and mixed doubles.

The men’s open singles third seed, Scott Kahler of Pittsburgh, has been a finalist at this tournament in singles and has championed in doubles events.

Whittingham, McClelland, and Kahler will all be in action at the Oglebay courts on Friday evening.

Local players competing in the men’s open singles include Hayden Blazer, John Marshall stand-out, who will be playing under Coach Sam McCullough at West Liberty and Cody Francis of Wheeling.

The women’s open singles will feature Jackie McDermott as the number one seed.

“I am very excited to be playing the West Virginia Open at my home courts,” McDermott said. “I’ve been playing at Oglebay since I was three years old. I am glad the Wheeling tennis community gets to be showcased.”

McDermott, a 2014 Linsly graduate had a highly successful high school career.

She was undefeated in the 2011 regular season.

Along with her sister Morgan, Jackie was a champion in 2012 at number one doubles. She has also won the number two singles twice and been runner-up at number one singles twice.

Jackie will be attending Oberlin College where she plans to continue her tennis career.

The only other local player in the women’s open singles is Alaina Pauley, who played her high school tennis at John Marshall High School.

In the fall Alaina will be going to West Liberty, where she will join her sister Christina on the Hilltopper squad.

In the Men’s 35 singles, newcomer Siim Vanaselja from New York, NY, is seeded number one.

The Vanaseljas are making this a family trip with Siim and his wife Aili also competing in the mixed 35 doubles.

Local players in the men’s 35 singles are Ken Dearth and Brett Andrews, both Wheeling residents.

The defending champion, Jeff Layman of Pittsburgh is seeded one in the men’s 45 singles while Mark Panepinto of Wheeling is seeded two. Sean Coughlan of Wheeling and Dave Berlin of Moundsville are also competing in this division.

For the men’s 55 singles division, Andrew Lach of West Newton, PA, is the number one seed. Lach has been a returning player in the WV Open as well as the Jack Dorsey Senior Memorial Tournament for years. Area players in the 55s are Chuck Wylie, Jody White, and Greg McDermott.

Men’s NTRP 4.0 is a division based on ability rather than age. Tim Barker of Daniels, just outside of Beckley, is the No. 1 seed and is joined in the draw by locals: Ken Dearth, Diego Gattesco, Justin Seibert, Sean Coughlan, Jody White, Chuck Wylie, and Brett Andrews.

Some teams have already registered for doubles events.

McClelland with partner Justin Thomas hope to repeat as men’s open doubles champs.

Dan Warner, a former West Liberty tennis standout, who now resides in Florida, has returned to compete in the mixed 50s doubles with local player Gigi Mercer. He will team-up with Frank Olzeski of Dillonvale, Ohio in the men’s 55 doubles.

As of Tuesday, 25 teams were registered for doubles events.

Registration for the doubles events will remain open until Thursday, July 24, at noon. Those interested in playing must have a USTA membership and contact Debbie Pickens at 304-639-4434 or by emailing entries to