CHAPMANVILLE The Chapmanville Lady Tigers tennis team is going back to the state tournament. After winning the regional title for the second consecutive year, and taking their first Cardinal Conference title since 2016, the Lady Tigers look to build on last season's effort where they tied Logan for state runner-up in Charleston.
Chapmanville’s girls' team finished the season 16-2, with their only losses being to Logan, before the Lady Tigers came back to defeat Logan overall by one match, 17-16, at the Cardinal Conference tournament, and tying Logan 24-24 in matches won at last week’s Region IV tennis tournament.
Chapmanville finished with four overall championships to Logan’s three championships to give them the edge for the regional crown.
The success the Lady Tigers have enjoyed this season has been unprecedented in the school’s tennis history, as this is the first time, they have won both the conference, and region, and sent all six players to the state tournament in all seven positions.
Head Coach Chris Kidd said the season has been a lot of fun for his kids and is proud of their success.
“I’ve coached the middle school program here in Chapmanville for 13 years and been on the coaching staff in high school for that long as well, and if you had told me when I started that we would be doing this and starting to do things like this consistently, I don’t know if I would have believed it,” Kidd said. “Those kids early on set the groundwork for this, and I’ll be forever grateful for them. Those early groups gave us four state champions in 2014, four state runner-up players, 24 state semifinalists, conference titles, and tied for a regional title in 2014, we’ve had a lot of success that has built this culture and now we’re starting to take bigger steps each year.”
“This group is so young. Five of our top six boys and girls are all underclassmen, I have four more girls that are underclassmen, and we have a lot of talent moving up from the middle school next year that will hopefully make us stronger,” Kidd said. “But I love more than anything how much fun they all have together. This group has been so much fun to be around. Every day is great just coming to practice or matches. The success has been tremendous, but I love that they love each other as much as they do.”
Chapmanville’s top-seeded player, freshman Courtney Curnutte, became the first player in school history to qualify for the state tournament in singles and doubles as a freshman this year and finished the season with an impressive 15-3 individual record.
Curnutte said it was an accomplishment and one of many she had hopes for at the start of the season and is excited about the state tournament.
“It’s nice knowing I accomplished some goals I set for myself awhile back,” Curnutte said. I’ve spent many hours with Mike Hanshaw coaching me and I am continuing to enjoy the process.”
“I’m looking forward to many more achievements that are to come. I am thankful for the opportunity to play in the state tournament, Curnutte said. “I am looking forward to a great experience and also grateful I get to go in my freshman year.”
Curnutte also said she appreciated her teammates' support this season.
“My favorite part of being on the team is being surrounded by many people who are so supportive of each other,” Curnutte said. “Through wins and losses, they always lighten the mood and I am very grateful for all of them.”
Number two seed and last year's state runner-up in number two singles and the first female All-State tennis player in Chapmanville history, Jill Blevins, was able to repeat as regional champion in singles this year and will be paired with Curnutte in doubles in the state tournament this week.
Blevins said the road back to states wasn’t easy but is looking forward to competing this week in Charleston.
“It's an honor to know that I am able to compete with such great competition, everyone I played was tough and I know all of us work so hard throughout the year, so to win it again is really amazing,” Blevins said. “Being in the state tournament again is crazy to think about. I've worked extremely hard to get to states and it's always so fun to go to states because I've been able to meet some great people and watch some amazing matches.”
Blevins also said she appreciates how close she’s grown to her teammates this season.
“My favorite part about the season was actually watching my teammates play, I've grown really close to my team this year,” Blevins said. “Each and every person on the team has their own personality and traits, but we all come together like a family to support each other, and to know that all of us have each other’s backs is really great.”
Number three seed Emma Bryant, who was also a state runner-up in three singles last year and a state semifinalist in number two doubles repeated as regional champion in her singles division again this year with Carmen Mahon.
Bryant said she feels her hard work has paid off in getting back to the state tournament and is relieved to have made it back to Charleston.
“It felt amazing, I finally felt like all my hard work and effort to get better at tennis was paying off this year. When my match was over I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face,” Bryant said. “After the team had worked so hard for so long and seeing us all succeed it made all of the sweat and tears, we’ve put into it worthwhile. I just felt so relieved at first.”
“Going back to states was the biggest goal for me this year. Knowing I did it is so surreal,” Bryant said. “The feeling of knowing you made it is unexplainable. It’s honestly one of the best moments.”
Bryant also said she appreciates all of the support she’s received from her teammates this season.
“The team is like a big family; we all joke and get along and support each other. Even the players who don’t have to come to every game come to cheer us on,” Bryant said. “When we have a hard or really important match going on, they all cheer for you on the sidelines to know they have your back.”
Coach Kidd too. He always makes sure the players know how much they mean to him, and Mark Spriggs is always there to support us and encourage us,” Bryant said. “My favorite part of the season has definitely been getting to see everyone so excited after winning Cardinal and then Regionals and working together as a team.”
The number four seed Mahon is also making her second straight state tournament appearance after last year's semifinal appearance in doubles and won the region in singles for the first time this season.
Mahon said she’s worked really hard in the offseason and was relieved to win the region as a team again this year.
“It felt like a dream,” Mahon said. “This is what I’ve been working for these past two years, and only making it to the semifinals last year is what pushed me to work harder in the off-season and this season to win.”
“The feeling is amazing and almost indescribable. I’m so excited to be coming back with the whole girls’ team and have our new girl players experience it,” Mahon said. “I think the majority of my feeling was relief after winning the regional title last year and having just a little pressure to have to come back and do it again and wondering if you can do it with the stakes and competition being kicked up from last year.”
Mahon said she also loved how much her teammates looked out for each other this year.
“My favorite part of the whole season is being a team and knowing all of us lookout for each other,” Mahon said. “We all love each other and it’s like being in a second family.”
The Lady Tigers will also compete in the number three doubles position in the state tournament this week after the team of Emily Carter and Emily Hughes finished undefeated this season at 24-0.
Carter, the only senior on the girls' team this season, said winning the region for the second year in a row and going undefeated took a lot mentally, but is excited to go back to the state tournament for the second consecutive year.
“Winning the region for the second year in a row while also going undefeated is a very big accomplishment,” Carter said. “It’s taken a lot of hard work and mental strength whether it be at practice, before matches, or even during matches. I couldn’t be happier with this outcome since it’s my senior year.”
“Knowing that I’m in the state tournament again is very surreal. My goal for my senior season was to go to states, and I’m very proud to say that I’ve accomplished that,” Carter said. “I have to give credit to my partner Emily (Hughes) because it’s her freshman year, and I know the stress that comes with that. Being in the state tournament is definitely nerve-racking, but such an exciting experience.”
Carter said her favorite thing about the team is the love they show for each other.
“My favorite thing about this team is how much we love each other,” Carter said. “When we’re all together, there’s never a dull moment.”
“We support each other so much and we only want the best for each other,” Carter said. “We love each other like siblings. We always have the most fun when we’re together.”
Carter’s partner in doubles, Hughes, is making her debut in the state tournament as a freshman for Chapmanville, and said going undefeated wasn’t expected, but that she is excited about the state tournament.
“It feels really awesome to go undefeated as a freshman, and I never expected that to happen coming into the season,” Hughes said. “I’ve worked hard this year and had a great doubles partner that has helped me succeed. Knowing that I’m in the state tournament is exciting and I’m looking forward to the experience.”
Hughes also said she’s loved the support her teammates have shown her this season.
“My favorite part about the team is the way we love and support each other,” Hughes said. “We always have each other’s back, and we strive to do our best.”
“Our friendship and support go beyond the courts,” Hughes said. “Coach Kidd is the best and his heart clearly shows when it comes to guiding and supporting our team.”
The AA/A state tournament will be held Thursday-Saturday this week at the Charleston Catholic Athletic Complex with play beginning at 8 a.m. on Thursday morning.