CHAPMANVILLE — The Chapmanville Regional High School tennis team has seen many lean years, but over the past three seasons the Tigers have surged, sending 13 players to the state tournament, while the girls team has strung together three consecutive seasons of 13 wins or more.
This season, The Lady Tigers experienced heights the program had never seen before.
They are as follows:
* The young Chapmanville squad was able to compile the best record in school history at 15-2.
* All six starters from the girls team made the state tournament, the most qualifiers in school history.
* Tied for first place in their regional tournament with eventual state champion Parkersburg Catholic.
* Beat every team in their region for the first time in school history.
* Had the best regular season record in the region.
* Won the Cardinal Conference title for the first time in school history.
* Eliminated 6-time defending Class AA/A state champion Charleston Catholic in four positions.
* Won their first individual regional title in No. 3 doubles.
* Qualified three freshman for the state tournament.
* Won two state titles last Saturday in Charleston, the most of any girls team in the Class AA/A field.
Out of the six state qualifiers the Lady Tigers have only one senior, Sravya Pidaparthi.
Chapmanville will return junior Haley Justice, the team’s top player and state champion in No. 2 doubles, sophomore Lasya Pidaparthi, and three freshmen, all of whom won state titles in doubles this past Friday in No. 2 and No. 3 doubles, Myla Bryant, Sara Lambert, and Cassidy Lewis.
Justice, who became the second girl in Chapmanville history to make the state tournament in singles and doubles in the same year, and third girl in the programs history to ever do it in their career, said she owes it to her sister for getting her started in tennis. She said she was happy to share this season with her doubles partner, and qualifying all the girls to the state tournament.
“My sister was the one who got me started in tennis. She played in high school and a few evenings we would go down and hit. From then on she always kept me motivated and pushed me to be better,” Justice said. “I was really pleased with my season. Having Cassidy as my partner made it great for me this year too. The whole team was great this year. Everyone was so close which made it more of a family then a team. And it was really nice having three coaches who supported and stood behind us the whole time. The highlight of the season was finding out we made history by sending all of our girls to states. It felt amazing when I made it, but knowing every one made it was even more special.”
Justice’s partner Lewis said going to the state tournament as a freshman was one of the most emotional moments of her life, as well as playing doubles on the biggest stage.
“Going to the state tournament as a freshman has allowed me to sense a diverse range of emotions,” Lewis said. “Some of these included apprehension, delight, and anxiety. At first, I was overjoyed with the thought of this amazing opportunity. Then, the jitters kicked in. I finally began to think about how oblivious I was to how the tournament functioned, and I began to feel extremely nervous. I am very passionate about my feelings. One of my favorite quotes is from Emma Stone who said, ‘If I feel strongly about anything, I get overwhelmed with emotion.’ In the past, doubles has not been my cup of tea. I’m an independent person, so having to depend on another to win was hard for me. Since I didn’t have the chance to play singles this year, I decided to make the best of doubles. Little did I know Haley and I would become state champions! She’s been a pleasure to play with. She has also been a huge influence on me this year.”
In the Class AA/A state tournament, Justice and Lewis found themselves trailing in each match before coming back to win. They trailed in their quarterfinal match vs. Bridgeport 4-1 before winning 8-6.
Then, in the best two out of three set format semifinal and final, the Lady Tigers lost the first set 6-2 to Bluefield before rallying to win 6-4, 6-4. In the finals, Justice and Lewis prevailed against a Parkersburg Catholic team that had beaten them in all three of their meetings during the season. This time the result favored the Tigers, as they came from behind to win the No. 2 doubles title 2-6, 6-1, 6-4.
Head coach Don Saunders said he was nervous throughout the match.
“I relearned how to pace on Saturday,” Don Saunders said. “I must have walked 10 miles during the two championship matches. But it was well worth it to see these girls come away with the title.”
Justice said, about the title, “It’s still so unreal that we actually won. I don’t think I have ever been so happy before and especially to win it with Cassidy made it even better. I really couldn’t have had a better partner,” Justice said. “Cassidy really stepped up and kept me calm through the whole game. I knew if we just played smart and could get in their head I knew we could beat them. I always said I wanted to win states, but I really never thought I would make it that far. Beating the private schools is just great, it just shows all of the hard work has paid off and we just keep working to get better. It proves we don’t give up and it just shows how much dedication we put into this. Every practice everyone tries their hardest and really wants to improve their game. After our first couple of games I could really tell we could be something great this year and we finally proved it. I’m so glad I was able to be a part of this team, they’ve made this year great, and it’s been one of the best seasons we’ve had I believe.”
Lewis was also happy that she accomplished winning a state title with her partner, and discussed the feeling of winning a title.
“Haley and I trailed in every match we played during states. When you’re down in any match, you have a decision. You choose to fight, or you choose to give up,” Lewis said. “First, you have to stop thinking about what could happen and just play the match point by point. In doubles, you have to feed off each other’s emotions. If your partner is upset, you can either match that, or you can attempt to pull them back into a positive attitude. Luckily, Haley and I are very good at assisting one another on staying positive. Once one of us begins to fight in a match, the other typically begins to fight too. We’ve worked so well together, and I can’t wait to see what next year holds!”
Lewis went on to discuss the team’s final match against Parkersburg Catholic.
“Before the final, Haley and I were aware of the fact that we had played and fallen to Parkersburg Catholic three times in the past. That was definitely a terrifying thought for me. Together, we found the will to fight until the finish. It was a tremendously tough battle, but with the support of our families, friends, coaches, teammates, and each other, we were able to triumph,” Lewis said. “The final point of our epic three set match was simply glorious. At first, I could not fathom the fact of being the second seed doubles state champions. I turned around and just looked at Haley. The only thoughts I could form were, ‘What just happened? Is this real?’ It began to feel like reality when I hugged Haley. The moment I knew it was real was when I felt tears begin to roll down my cheeks. We had just beaten Parkersburg Catholic, who we had lost to three times, to become state champions. There are no words to describe how I felt in the moments after Haley hit the winning drop shot. It was brilliant. I’m so proud of her, and I can’t think of anyone else that I would want to experience this with!”
The No. 3 doubles duo of Bryant and Lambert had a tremendous season, losing only one match in route to their state title. Bryant said it was hard work and help from her coaches that pushed her to succeed this season.
“We definitely couldn’t have done it without all the hard work our coaches put us through,” Bryant said. “We wanted to thank everyone for all the support and who was there and those who have pulled for us but wasn’t able to make it. And thanks a lot to Mr. (Chris) Kidd. I definitely couldn’t have made it this far without him. He’s such a great role model for all of us. I’m glad he pushed us as hard as he did.”
Lambert, who almost elected not to play tennis this season, said she is glad she changed her mind, and had a fantastic year.
“I’m so glad that I decided to come back,” Lambert said. “I am blessed to be a part of such a great group of people. We have had so much fun this year, and the amount of support we have in unbelievable. I couldn’t have asked for a better freshman year. My partner was my best friend before tennis started. It made it more special to play with her. We work together to not only win, but to have fun while doing it.”
In the No. 3 doubles draw Bryant and Lambert had no trouble in their semifinal match, as they dismantled Robert C. Byrd 6-0, 6-1 to move onto the state finals where they faced Bluefield. In the finals Bryant and Lambert came from behind to win a tight 1st set 7-5, and led 3-1 in the second set, and appeared to be on their way to a title. But Bluefield fought back and grabbed the set 7-5 to force a third and deciding set for the championship.
CRHS assistant coach Chris Kidd said he was worried about his freshman girls.
“I’ve coached them for four years just like Cassidy and Haley and Lasya and Sravya, so I know when they’re out of sorts,” Kidd said. “I wanted them to calm down. They were upset because of the fans and other things, but I just told them they had to stick together. They got there as a team and they were going to win it as a team. I kept giving them little quotes all week before states that they laughed at me for, but I started to tell them the same things again, ‘Every shot, every point, for as long as it takes’, and ‘Why Not Us?’ They could have fallen apart right then and been blown out after losing that second set, but it was about who wanted it more in that final set, and for freshman to be that mentally tough and show that much heart was incredible.”
Bryant and Lambert found themselves in a big hole however late in the third set. Trailing 4-3 and 0-30 the Lady Tigers were just six points away from defeat, but Chapmanville was able to prevail 6-4, to guarantee Chapmanville would win more state titles than any other Class AA/A girls’ team.
Bryant said it was a great experience, especially winning in front of a tough crowd.
“It was just a great opportunity for me to experience. No words can really explain how it feels to have a state title, especially as a freshman,” Bryant said. “Sara was over all an amazing partner and I definitely couldn’t have done it without her. That crowd was rough to handle with the way they acted toward us, but together we had to pull our focus away from them and win. There was a whole lot of pressure out there being the last ones on the court for the day. Anyone that knows Sara and I though, know that we don’t go down without a fight. We came there to win and we had no thoughts of losing. It was not in our vocabulary.”
Lambert said losing the second set was difficult, but enjoyed the feeling of clinching the state title.
“After losing the second set I started to let the crowd bother me, and I refocused after Kidd and Myla talked to me about not letting them affect me,” she said. “We would have lost if I hadn’t. I served the last point, and it was the best feeling ever when I saw that ball hit the other side of the net. It made every practice worth it.”
CRHS assistant coach Geoff Saunders said this season was amazing, but the future is still very bright for the team.
“”I have been blessed to work beside two great tennis coaches, Don Saunders and Chris Kidd,” he said. “We were all a nervous wreck all week, but these girls are so great and so easy to coach. We have been so fortunate to have the people we have in this program. This has undoubtedly been the most successful year in Chapmanville tennis history. We each set out this year with a goal to have the best year possible and I think we got it. The girls had an awesome season and the best part is we are young. The next several years are going to be a whole lot of fun on the courts.”
The other part of the state tournament six was a pair of sisters, Sravya and Lasya Pidaparthi, who qualified in No. 1 doubles for Chapmanville, and won their first round match over Frankfort 9-8 (7-1) to finish in the top 8 in the state.
Lasya Pidaparthi said playing with her sister was one the greatest experiences she had on the court.
“Playing with my sister was a whole new experience these past two years. In previous years, my partners and I would only converse about forehands and winners on the court,” Lasya Pidaparthi said. “Sravya and I, however, we were constantly thinking how to better our games, even off the court. In the middle of the match, our pairing proved to be advantageous. We communicated freely (speaking a different language helps), and we knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses better than anyone else. I’m really glad that we were partners these past couple of years, and I’ll really miss her, more than anyone, when she’s off to college. It feels awesome. It’s great satisfaction to know that the hours of effort and hard work we put in have paid off.
“A couple years ago, when I heard we were playing Catholic schools, I would already count it as a loss. But now, we’ve beat all the private teams in our region collectively, and it makes me very proud to wear the name of Chapmanville. Long ago, we were a joke. But now, after years of hard work and determination, I think that we’ve earned ourselves a name that stands above the other high-class teams.”
Lasya Pidaparthi went on to mention how much she has progressed since she first started playing the sport.
“I really want to thank my coach in middle school, Mr. Kidd, for what I am now,” Lasya Pidaparthi said. “At the beginning, I would lob balls over the net and run slower than Christmas. But now, I’m running all over the court and sometimes even serving aces. Mr. Kidd is the main reason I started taking tennis seriously. To be honest, when I started playing in seventh grade, I was just playing for fun. I didn’t take it serious. I had never thought any of what we accomplished this year was even possible back then. We were just a couple of goofy kids, some who were holding a racket for the first time. However, when Mr. Kidd brought so much change in our game in one year, I started considering, ‘Hey, why not us?’ And look at us now. I truly appreciate all that he’s done for me and the whole team. I also want to thank my parents for helping build my confidence before I go on court and after I’ve lost. I also want to show my gratitude for my fellow teammates, for being there through the ups and downs of these past four years.”
Justice summed up the season in a way many of Chapmanville’s opponents and fans felt once they cemented their place as a top team in the state.
“I was shocked,” she said. “I really didn’t know what to expect. As a team I really thought we could make it far, and I’m so glad we proved it.”