The tennis scene has surged throughout the southern West Virginia area the past several years.
Just this past tennis season alone saw Logan’s Jacob Adkins, Keith Williamson, Hannah Lester and Hayley Hatfield reach the state semifinals in doubles.
Mingo Central’s’ Kyle Surber battled his way to the state quarterfinals in singles for the Miners.
Scott’s Blake Chambers and Caleb Starkey reached the state finals in No. 1 doubles before falling to eventual champion Williamstown.
And then, there was the surprise of the Chapmanville Regional High School program, winning their first state titles in program history as Haley Justice and Cassidy Lewis took home the No. 2 doubles state title, while Myla Bryant and Sara Lambert walked away as the No. 3 doubles state champions.
That’s why it was no surprise to Chapmanville summer league coach and USTA Tennis Coordinator Chris Kidd that his summer league team was asked to represent West Virginia at the Ohio Valley District Championships in Wilmington, Ohio last week, in an event that more than 20 teams from the Midwest region come to compete.
“It’s a huge honor to come and compete in this tournament,” Coach Kidd said. “This is where some of the best talent in the country comes together to face off against each other, and it gives you an idea of how you stack up against the best players. We started this summer program five years ago and it’s just continued to grow each year. We had 40 kids from Chapmanville, Logan, Scott and Mingo Central sign up this summer and I think it’s only going to make all of our programs stronger and give all of us a better chance to take home more state titles in the future.”
Kidd is also the head coach of the Chapmanville Middle School tennis team and an assistant coach on the Chapmanville Regional High School tennis club, but he was also aided by his brother Bryan Kidd, who is the head coach for the Logan Middle School program and a two time state finalist himself in the sport.
Bryan Kidd said the summer league is a great experience for young players to take part in.
“I remember when Chris and I played in this in high school,” Bryan Kidd said. “It helped keep us ready for the season and improve. I think it’s what helped us win our state title in Logan in 2003, and it was just a great experience. Chris and some of our teammates won in Ohio and Indianapolis, and then we got to participate in the Junior Olympics in 2002, and it’s just something that we’ll never forget, and I think that’s why Chris and I love doing this because we want these kids to have those memories and the realization that our sport is just as important and fun as all the others and it’s been encouraging because we continue to grow every year.”
The tournament in Ohio featured mostly Ohio teams, but also welcomed clubs from Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and southern West Virginia.
In the event, the Southern West Virginia Servivors finished fifth overall as their 14-and-under division team won 81 games, while the 18-and-under team tallied 78 games total. In all, the Servivors won 16 individual matches en route to their fifth-place finish, which was a big improvement from last season.
“Last year we went for the first time and I think we were stunned by how great the competition was,” Chris Kidd said. “We won a few matches but I think we came away with an understanding of how good you actually had to be to compete on this level with these Midwest teams. Almost every one of these teams are from country clubs or racquet clubs and have been playing since they were four or five. Our kids normally don’t get started until they are 12 or 13 or even later and rarely get tennis lessons. We really need a younger tennis feeder system in the area to introduce the game to kids sooner, but for our kids to go down there and beat and compete with kids that are state champions and nationally ranked in the juniors is amazing. I know we’ve had a long climb in Chapmanville these past five years, but to go out and win two state titles and then hold your own against this caliber of competition just speaks volumes to what these kids have been able to do.”
In tournament action, the Servivors picked up a pair of wins from the brother and sister combo of Alec and Ciera Stowers, as they knocked off Conner Page and Lena Caruso from Columbus Racquet Club 6-3, and then won a hard fought 6-5 (7-4) match against Evan Ross and Corinna Moesle from the Scarborough 5 team. Both Alec and Ciera are enrolled at Chapmanville, and Chris Kidd said he thinks they have promising futures in the sport.
“Those two work harder than any two kids I’ve had in the five years I’ve coached,” Chris Kidd said. “They’ve barely played a year and their improvement is off the charts. I can’t get them off the courts. I’ll sometimes just drive by the courts in Chapmanville and they’ll be there working on shots and practicing. And what’s better is they’re great kids. You couldn’t ask for better kids to coach. Alec is only going into seventh grade and Ciera will be in ninth this year so they’ve got a very promising future. Most of my players have a strong work ethic, but if some of them worked half as hard as these two I think it’d be very difficult for any team to beat us.”
Ciera Stowers also picked up a 6-0 win in singles against the SRTC Lucky Strings, while Alec Stowers teamed up with another Chapmanville tennis hopeful Austin Hanshaw to dispatch Osuke Fujita and Conner Page of Columbus Racquet Club 6-3. Hanshaw, like Ciera Stowers, will be joining the Chapmanville Regional High School team in the spring, and is someone else Chris Kidd said he believes could have a promising career.
“Austin is one of the smartest players I’ve coached,” he said. “He and Ciera were my top seeds on the middle school team last year, and he just gets it. I don’t have to explain basic things to him, he understands how to frustrate an opponent and get them off their game, and then execute the shots he wants. He almost tricks you into playing his game, and his matches are fascinating to watch. We’ve got some good boys players coming back to our high school team this year, but if Austin was the No. 1 seed next year I wouldn’t be surprised at all.”
Hanshaw also picked up three big singles wins for his Servivors club, as he took care of Lance Li from Columbus Racquet Club 6-1, then won two tight contest in tiebreakers, as he knocked off Grant Schroeder 6-5 (7-2) from Scarborough 5, and then outlasted Dhruva Gurushankar from Elysium 6-5 (7-5).
The Servivors also picked up a singles win from Chyanne Farmer, who won 6-0 against the Columbus Racquet Club. Farmer will be a seventh grader at Logan Middle School this season and someone Coach Bryan Kidd said he believes will have a great season.
“Chyanne has improved tremendously since last season,” Bryan Kidd said. “She is a fun kid who really enjoys the sport, and she has a great personality. She’s been working hard to get better ever since last season and I think it will pay off this fall once the middle school season starts. She has a chance to win a lot of matches for us.”
The other members of the 14-and-under team are Chapmanville’s Emily Gore and Mackenzie Phipps, and Jamie and Tyler Ball, who were members of Bryan Kidd’s LMS squad last season, but are transferring to Chapmanville for this coming school year. Chris Kidd said he could have a very competitive middle school club this season.
“I don’t know if Jamie and Tyler will come out for the team yet, but they have potential to get better. Bryan did an excellent job with them at Logan in their first year, and if they continue to play this fall I think they’ll make both of our teams stronger. Emily and Mackenzie are going into seventh grade and have been with me for a year and they’re two of my leaders on the middle school team. They want to win and work hard to get better. They’re goofy but once they get on the court they are tough competitors and nearly won a few matches. They lost one in a tiebreaker and another at 6-4, so for this to be only their second year is very promising. I think we’ll have a very solid middle school team in Chapmanville and Logan this fall.”
The 18-and-under team was led by Chapmanville state champions Haley Justice, who will be a senior this year, and Cassidy Lewis, who will be a sophomore.
Kali Scott of the Scott Skyhawks, who will be a senior this year, rounded out the girls team, while Eric Constant of Scott, an incoming junior, and Colton Townsend and Dakota Saunders, both incoming juniors at Chapmanville, helped make up the boys’ club.
The Servivors picked up big wins against the Kicking Aces club from Kentucky, as Townsend won in singles, Saunders and Constant were victorious in boys doubles, Justice triumphed in singles while she and her doubles partner Lewis were winners in doubles. In mixed doubles Townsend and Scott picked up a big win, while Lewis and Saunders swept the other mixed doubles match.
Justice also picked up key wins for the Servivors in singles, as she battled back from a 5-3 deficit to defeat Caroline Phillips of the Scarborough 2 team 6-5 (7-5), and then took out Madeleine McDonald of the Scarborough 3 club 6-2.
“I can never say enough about the way Haley Justice competes,” Chris Kidd said. “I use to think I competed hard when I played, but this girl will do whatever it takes to win. She doesn’t have the natural gifts that a tennis player would have, but she finds a way. She was down 5-2 in the tiebreaker to the Phillips girl and won the last five points to take the match. The last four points she hit clean winners to take the match from her opponent. I just walked by the younger players and said ‘That’s why she’s a state champion’. I’ve been around players from football, basketball, baseball, softball, you name it at both high school and college, and I’ve never met anyone with her determination to win. You don’t get people like her often so you just enjoy and appreciate watching it while it’s happening.”