By TOM BONE
for the Daily Telegraph
Two tennis players at Princeton Senior High School are putting the many distractions of their final weeks as high school seniors on hold.
They’ve got the opportunity to play in the state Class AAA tennis tournament this week at the Schoenbaum Courts in Kanawha City.
Playing at No. 1 singles, William Robertson finished second in the Region 3 tournament and will play on the state level at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Robertson and doubles partner Jacob Jones qualified at No. 1 doubles with a third-place finish at the regionals. They will compete at 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Finals for singles and doubles are set for Saturday.
Jones said, “I’ve been trying to think about it, and not stray from the challenge that we’re going to face on Thursday. I’m not really worried about the end of school right now. (I’m) just focusing on the tournament.”
Plans call for the two to leave Princeton after school today to travel to Charleston, and get a practice session in this afternoon, said tennis coach Sarah French.
“We’ve been there plenty of times,” Jones said. “I kind of understand how the court plays. ... I just feel more confident going onto a court where I know what it’s going to be like.”
Robertson was 12-1 in regular-season play in the Mountain State Athletic Conference (MSAC). He said that competition in the MSAC, consisting of Class AAA schools, “definitely helps you get ready for the high levels of competition.”
Jones said about the regional tourney, “We felt really confident when we arrived at the courts that day. ... We made it through the first round with a good win. Then we had a rough second round.
“We got to a consolation match for the third round, and we had a really tough match against Oak Hill. We were just playing so good, and we were able to pull it through and get the win.”
Robertson said about his regional singles competition, “I was pretty confident going in. My ultimate goal was to make it to the finals, which I did.”
“Unfortunately, I couldn’t pull through against (Ryan Massinople of) George Washington (High School) — but that was my ultimate goal.”
Jones is making his first trip to the state tennis event. He said, “I’ve heard that it’s a lot more difficult than playing in our region, and I’m going to try to prepare the best for it that I can, and hope for the best.”
It’s a repeat trip to the states for Robertson. He said his advice to Jones is, “You have to step your game up and stay focused.”
Though this is the only year they have been a doubles team, Jones said, “We just get along really good, so we’re always keeping each other’s heads straight when we’re playing.”
Jones said, “William is probably the best doubles partner on our team that I could ask for, really. We just work really good together as a team.”
Jones said he started playing tennis seriously in the 10th grade. “It’s been awesome,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better team to play with or a better partner to play with.”
French said, “Jacob has excelled the last two years. William was great when he came up (to high school). Will is what the rest of them want to excel to.”
French said that Robertson “always wants to do the best he can, always. I had a quote from a coach at the regionals (Todd Albaugh of Shady Spring) who came over and said ... ‘Your boy has got to be one of the best well-mannered players that I have ever come across in the region.’ ”
She said Albaugh remarked, “He has the characteristics that a true tennis player should have.”
Robertson said, “It’s a lot of hard work. I’ve practiced almost every single day ... .”
French said, “Mark Sarver has helped a lot. He’s been coaching several of our kids out of season, and works with them all year ’round. That’s the only way they can compete at the state level ... .”
“It’s hard to compete with Charleston,” she said. “They have their own courts, and they start when they’re little. Our students usually start in the ninth grade, when they come to the high school, because we don’t have a middle school team.”
Jones agreed that the advice of a tennis professional has helped him. Then he added, “A lot of it has been me and William. (We) go and hit a lot. It just helps me get better. It helps us both get better. But he has helped me out a lot.”
— Contact Tom Bone at