Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

May 13, 2014

Bluefield boys to compete in Charleston

BLUEFIELD — The Bluefield Beavers will be well represented at the West Virginia boys Class AA/A state tennis tournament later this week in Charleston. The Beavers will take part in six of the seven championship divisions.

Bluefield has had tennis champions in the past, but this team is special for two reasons. First, most of the players are taking part in their first year of competitive tennis and second, this team has rebounded from early season losses to vie for possible individual and doubles titles and a team championship.

“They have worked from ground zero,” said coach Cindy Stonestreet. “They’ve come up, they’ve worked hard, they didn’t miss one day of practice.  I would say half the team really hadn’t held a racquet before this season.”

Francesco Desiderio is the No. 1 seed who won the regional championship. Desiderio, an exchange student from Rome, got his kicks with the Beavers’ football team last fall, leading all kickers in the state of West Virginia in points scored. This spring he decided to hit the courts in honor of his father.

“I played because my father loved the game, so I did it for him,” Desiderio said. “I like playing tennis, but I don’t really love it like I love football. I’ve had a fun season. I had never met any of these people before we started practice. They are all fun and cool, so I am having a great time playing tennis. Our coach? I am cool with her too. I am having a great time.”

Desiderio played one year of tennis, when he was 10 years old and he had no tournament experience until the recent Coalfield Conference and regional tournaments. He talked about the difference in his sporting experiences at BHS.

“The meaning of a team is really different,” Desiderio commented. “In football you lose and you win together. Here in tennis, even if you are close with your teammates, it’s more like an individual sport. Even when you are playing doubles you are focused on what you are done. Football is kind of everybody is trying together. It’s different.”

In addition to competing in No. 1 singles, Desiderio will team up with Chris Lawless in No. 1 doubles play.

Desiderio takes on Ethan Cross of Ravenswood in singles action Thursday morning. Desiderio and Lawless got a first-round bye in doubles action and will  play the winner between Scott and Liberty (Harrison) High School.

Mark Clapp is a freshman who qualified with Zack Taylor in the No. 3 doubles position. Clapp and Taylor went through the season without a loss. This is Clapp’s first year of tennis.

“I am glad Jordan Vollmar, one of my best friends, introduced me to the sport... it’s truly amazing how far I have come,” Clapp said.

“It’s been very challenging. My doubles partner, Zach Taylor and I have developed good compatibility. When we’re playing we’ve had problems, but we were able to solve them and able to pull out a win each time we played. We anticipate a challenge (at state), we know that. But if we just work through our games and troubles, we’ll pull through as state champions.”

Clapp and Taylor face Watts and Roberts from Weirton Madonna on Friday with the winner advancing to Saturday’s championship.

Wesley Stump is another Beaver who is in essence a novice in the sport.

“Honestly we are really just a new team,” Stump said. “None of us have really played much except Frankie (Desiderio) and we did a real good job just getting things together and stepping up and working hard. That’s all we’ve been doing all year.”

Bluefield compiled a 12-5 record as a team during the season and was 12-1 in the region. The one loss in the region, the season opener to Liberty (Raleigh) was avenged not only in the Coalfield Conference tournament, but also in regional play.

Stump continued, “We’re really just a self-made team. We’re out there to kick butt every day. That’s what we do.

Speaking of the state tournament Stump said, “It’s a lot harder competition. The main thing really is just getting in a rhythm and doing our game. As long as we stay up a few games we get comfortable doing what we do and we can win easily in doubles. Singles, it’s going to be a challenge for all of us at singles. We’ve got to stay focused and not get nervous.”

Stump will take on Nick Williams of Ravenswood in No. 3 singles on Thursday.  In doubles he and Vollmar will play he Matics/Curry from Ravenswood, Friday morning.

Vollmar and Stump only lost two matches this season one to Charleston Catholic, the other to Liberty (Raleigh).

“It’s going to be a challenge,” Vollmar said. “We beat all but two teams and both of those will be at the state tournament. I think we can beat one of them, but we’re not sure about the other. It’s going to be close.”

Stonestreet is excited for all who qualified for the state tournament and credits hard work and Bluefield High School for their success.

“I don’t know what it is about Bluefield High School and the athletes,” Stonestreet said. “There is a tradition at BHS to succeed. There is a tradition to compete and there is a tradition to win. I don’t know what they do up there.”

The state tennis tournament runs from Thursday through Saturday.

A feature on the Bluefield girls tennis team will appear in Thursday’s edition of the Daily Telegraph.

— Contact Bob Redd at bredd@bdtonline.com and Twitter @bdtredd.

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