CHARLESTON - Weir tennis coach Dave Thompson doesn't get overcome by much.
"Before I became a teacher and a coach, I was a cop," Thompson said. "So I don't get emotional over too much. But I will tell you this, these girls have made me cry twice this year."
Those girls are Weir's No. 2 seed Barbie Sulimanova and her doubles partner and No. 1 seed Claudia Diaz.
Two, if you ask Thompson and assistant coach Sherry Lengthorn, special players.
You have to know the background, and then you will understand how two exchange students (a big part of the story, with Sulimanova hailing from Slovakia and Diaz from Spain) could bring a guy who has seen the bad and the ugly of the human spirit to tears.
The fact alone that they made it this far with so little time together, speaks volumes, considering that neither come from a tennis-rich background as so many of the competitors in the state tournament do.
Yet Sulimanova, who said she played "a little bit of tennis, but not for competition" made it all the way to the No. 2 singles championship, falling to another local girl, two-time state champion, Madison Juszczak of Oak Glen, 6-3, 6-4.
She and Diaz also teamed to advance to the No. 1 doubles semifinals.
"When you think about it, they only played together for two months," Thompson said. "Two months ago, they had not really played competitiive tennis. That is phenomenal. I haven't seen anything like this before. It's really unheard of, that they could do what they did. We are so proud of both of these girils."
Diaz did not play tennis in Spain, instead playing something known as "paddleball."
Lengthorn said it was explained to her as a form of tennis.
Certainly not the form of tennis that she encountered when she came to America. Not the kind where kids spend years at perfecting to get to this point, if not further. Yet she excelled immediately.
The girls will return to their respective countries in July, with many stories to tell of there time in West Virginia, and of their run to the brink of what would have been seen two months ago as unlikely state championships.
"This has been the best experience of my life," Sulimanova said. "I really wish it wasn't going to end. I've made so many friends here. I have had such a great time. Playing tennis was just part of it. It's been more than I expected."
She was naturally dejected at not being able to finish off the season with a state championship. But she is rightfully proud of her accomplishments.
"All of the girls that I played to get here, they were all great players, so to make it this far, I am proud of that fact," she said. "I wanted to win. That part is disappointing to me."
Thompson rightfully noted that they both have a lot to be proud of, and, more importantly, a lot to look forward to as well.
"They are going to be successful," Thompson said. "I know Barbie wants to come back and go to WVU and become a doctor. Claudia wants to be a lawyer. It was a privilege to coach them, and see them get better every time they competed. For first-year players, to come as far as they did, we are proud of them and they have a lot to be proud of as well."
Sulimanova speaks five different languages. Diaz speaks three.
In any language, theirs is a story of success that transcends way beyond the boundaries of a tennis court.
They made many memories, including the heartwarming story of bringing a former police officer to tears.
Dave Morrison can be reached via email at email@example.com