Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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June 9, 2014

Optimistic G-Girls travel upstate

BLUEFIELD, Va. — The Graham girls tennis team has a “50-50 shot” of winning their state semifinal match today against Wilson Memorial High School, their coach believes.

“We’ve got a 50-50 shot, depending on how we play and how they play,” G-Girls tennis coach Billy Roach said on Monday. With the field of Group 2A high schools narrowed down to its final four, Roach added, “They’ve got to be good to be in this position.”

“Neither of the teams has played common opponents. It’s just looking at records,” he said, noting that the Wilson Memorial girls have not played tournaments, while Graham’s Caitlin Williams, Rebecca Day and Haley Sheets have.

Graham will play today at noon on the Wilson Memorial courts in Fishersville, Va., near Waynesboro. Today’s winner will take on Gate City at 9 a.m. Saturday at Radford University for the 2A state title.

The Gate City girls defeated George Mason 5-2 in their state semifinal on Monday morning at Gate City. The Blue Devils beat Graham 5-1 on June 2 in the 2A West finals, but both teams advanced to the state level.

Graham senior Caitlin Williams, who suffered a hairline fracture of her elbow more than two weeks ago, was medically released by her doctor on Monday afternoon and is expected to play today, Roach said.

“That’s a big surprise,” he said. “She got a hairline fracture while riding a skateboard, the weekend before Memorial Day.”

He added that the G-Girls will be without Cyma Mounzer, who has gone to visit Lebanon with family members.

“Hopefully, we can go up there and do well,” Roach said.

He noted that in Wilson Memorial’s match for their 2A East regional championship, the Green Hornets lost at No. 1, 2 and 3 singles. “They won 4, 5 and 6 and won two doubles,” he said.

“I think Wilson Memorial is stronger at the bottom end,” Roach said. “Now, I’ve got my 1, 2, 3 (singles players) back.”

That is likely to make a difference in Graham’s mental approach to today’s match and the upcoming rematch with Gate City.

Williams was missing with her injured elbow in the regional effort against the Blue Devils, Roach noted.

“Of course, you’re going into the match and you don’t have your No. 1 seed,” he said. “So everybody gets bumped up. Our No. 2 is playing their No. 1, our No. 3 is playing their No. 2 ... .”

“People just aren’t as comfortable. They’re thinking, ‘Oh gosh, I’ve got to play a higher seed.’ I think they were nervous about that. Now Caitlin’s back, and I think they’ll have their confidence up.”

“Gate City is a good team,” the coach said, “(but) I think it’s more mental than talent.”

The G-Girls’ drive to Fishersville this morning should not be too difficult, Roach said.

“We have that van that was purchased for us,” he said. “It’s not like we have to ride up there on a school bus.”

The team plans to arrive at Wilson Memorial this morning around 10 a.m. “Once we’re there, we’ll have something to snack on, and we can stretch our legs and warm up,” Roach said.

• • •

Graham senior Rebecca Day will be in Radford on Thursday as one of the four semifinalists in Group 2A tennis singles. She will play Kynadi Mauney of George Mason High School at 9 a.m. for a berth in the championship, scheduled for noon on Thursday.

Roach said that Mauney is one of a pair of twin sisters from France who are on the George Mason team.

“They’re pretty good, but she’s done really well,” he said. “She stepped up (in Williams’ place) and played really well in our conference tournament and won that. Then she played in the regional tournament in Martinsville. That qualified her for the state. She’s in the top four.”

Day is one of a quartet of new Graham graduates still playing tennis for their alma mater.

“I think mentally she’s ready to play,” Roach said. “I’ve got four seniors, but the top three, they’re all going to Virginia Tech, and they’re not planning on continuing to play tennis.”

“This is their last hurrah and I think they will all be ready.”

“This is my third year working with them,” Roach said. “We lose four this year but I’ve got six coming back. I want them to know I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. We’ll miss the ones we’re losing but we’re looking forward to those that are coming back.”

“I think the girls have had a great season,” he said, citing the G-Girls’ 15-1 regular-season record and the postseason success already in the books.

Just before leaving for Monday’s practice session, Roach said about his team, “They’ve been practicing, preparing every day. We’re going to do the best we can do.”

— Contact Tom Bone at

tbone@bdtonline.com

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