By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The state tournament is nothing new for the Bluefield High School girls tennis team. In 2007 the girls won the state championship and every year since, and for many years prior the Beavers have been well-represented in Charleston. This year is no different as the entire team has qualified for the tournament — four singles players and two doubles teams.
Later this afternoon the girls, along with the boys team will bus to Charleston to begin the three-day event which starts Thursday and culminates with the crowning of state champions Saturday afternoon.
Molly Lovern is one of the Beavers making a return trip. As No. 1 seed and region champion, Lovern, a junior, is ready to go.
“I’m real excited. We’ve got a lot to live up to, having played in the state finals last year,” We’ve definitely got to step it up this year to live up to some expectations. Last year in singles I had a tough time at states. I came in as the first seed and lost to a third seed in the first round. I had some really, really bad nerves. Now that I’ve got a little more experience I hope to do much better.”
Lovern and doubles teammate Claire Bailey, also a junior, lost in the finals last year to a duo from Charleston Catholic and Bailey is out for revenge.
“Hopefully if we make it to the finals we will be playing the same girls we played last year and of course we want to beat them this time,” Bailey said.
Bailey, daughter of head coach Cathy and assistant Jim Bailey, plays No. 4 singles and is cautiously optimistic about her singles draw.
“I only have to win two matches to win states and I guess I’ve got to keep my head in the game and not think of anything but tennis for those two days and just hope that I came out with that plaque.”
Alex Lewis, a junior, and freshman Zoe Nicewander team up for doubles and Lewis will also be vying for a singles title at No. 2. This will be Lewis’ second trip to the tournament and she believes she will be better prepared this year, than last.
“The atmosphere is just completely different. You’re near so many great players. It’s nothing like you see in the region during the season. It’s a feeling you’ve never felt before,” Lewis said.
“Your first year is nerves. You think people are so much better than you, but you see, once you’re up there that you can play with those people.”
Making her first trip upstate, Nicewander said her teammates have helped prepare her for what she will face later this week.
“I’ve learned a lot about states and how it’s going to be,” Nicewander said. “I’ve become friends with all the girls and they’ve all taught me about what’s going to happen at states.”
Senior Sarah Brady is playing her first year at Bluefield after transferring from Graham. She said there are major differences between the tennis played in Virginia and West Virginia.
“It’s definitely more competitive on this side,” Brady said. “We get a lot more opportunities on this side to play in regions and go to state and to play in the Coalfield Classic. On the Virginia side we didn’t have those tournaments. We just had a season and it was over.”
Brady won the region as a No. 3 and in doubles she teams up with Brooke Cundiff and the pair have completed an undefeated season.
Cundiff, a junior, said hard work and dedication have helped the team accomplish great things this year and hopefully more is to come.
“We have great communication and we know each other’s game,” Cundiff said of the relationship between herself and her double’s partner Brady. “We try to make sure we have each other’s back. We work hard and do our best and hopefully we will stay undefeated the whole season and win a state title.”
Camilla Deeb is a freshman member of the team who is not playing in the state tournament, but she had a lot of praise for her teammates.
“I love playing tennis and they do a really good job. They work hard and I hope they do their best,” Deeb said.
Assistant coach Jim Bailey said Deeb has a promising future with the program as she won exhibition matches this season. Deeb said that over the summer she plans on playing a lot to get better, “So I can play more next year.”
The Bluefield ladies begin state tournament play Thursday at the Charleston Catholic courts in Charleston.
— Contact Bob Redd