CHARLESTON - The Chapmanville tennis team will send three players to this weeks state tournament at Coonskin Park in Charleston, as the team has qualified for the state tournament for the 11th consecutive year.
Headlining in the state tournament for the Tigers will be three juniors; Alec Stowers in number one singles, Mackenzie Phipps in number two singles and three doubles, and Piper Dalton in three doubles.Stowers has been to the state tournament in each of his first three years for Chapmanville and has made a splash by winning five matches total, including reaching the state semifinals in back to back seasons at number two singles.
Stowers said being the one seed this year felt good, and is enjoying being back in the state tournament once again.
"It feels good to be the number one seed this year. It is better competition, so I've improved a little bit more," Stowers said. "It's great to make it back a 3rd year. I'm in a higher position this year so it's going to be more difficult, but I'm also more experienced. The state tournament is where all the best players are, and I love the sport so it is really fun."
Stowers also picked up his 100th win earlier this season as a player at CRHS and enjoyed the accomplishment, and attributed wrestling to his preparation for tennis season.
"Getting my 100th win this season was great. It was an amazing accomplishment," Stowers said. "Wrestling got me in good shape for tennis this year. CRHS wrestling team has the hardest workouts I've ever done."
Phipps, like Stowers, has been involved in tennis since she was in sixth grade at Chapmanville Middle School, and said this was a goal she has been working toward for six years.
"Going to the state tournament was a goal I started to work for in middle school and now that I've achieved that goal I'm overjoyed but the ultimate goal is a state title," Phipps said. "After not playing my freshman year I knew I was going behind the other players who had more experience at the high school level than I did. Seeding out of the top four and not being able to play singles last year really motivated me to get out and work during the off-season to improve my game. I think it is because of that work and my dedication that I was able to qualify for states in singles and doubles."
Phipps is the 10th player in school history to qualify for the state tournament in singles and doubles for Chapmanville in the same season, and also won the Cardinal Conference title with Dalton two weeks ago, and says she loves playing with her doubles partner.
"Piper has been an amazing partner," Phipps said. "She is very dedicated and has worked very hard to become the player she is now. Throughout the whole season, I've seen major improvements in her. We work well together as a team, she's always willing to listen to advice, and we have a good time while we play."
The duo has compiled a 25-0 record heading into the state tournament this week, and Phipps said it is exciting, but wasn't sure what to expect to start the season, and was happy with the way the regional tournament culminated with a win over Logan 8-5.
"I'm very excited to be undefeated. I wasn't sure what to expect going into this season because it was going to be our first year playing doubles together but I'm extremely pleased with how well our season has gone so far," Phipps said. "It was amazing to win regionals. We played some really great teams throughout the season and in the tournament so I knew we were really going to have to play our best if we wanted to go to states."
Phipps was also grateful to everyone who has helped her reach this moment in her career.
"I want to thank all of my family for supporting me through six years of tennis," Phipps said. "I also want to thank all of my team. They always get me pumped up for matches and they have supported me and Piper all season. My coaches have also supported me for years and I want to thank them for teaching me how to play this sport and for helping me improve each year. Without my family, teammates, and coaches there's no way I could be the player I am today."
Dalton stepped into tennis for the first time this season for the Tigers and made dramatic improvements all season long. Dalton said she didn't know what to expect when she started playing last summer.
"Going into this season, I never thought that any of this was possible," Dalton said. "I came straight out of softball season into tennis season and had to learn the sport in a fairly short amount of time. I practiced constantly in order to be the best I could be but didn't have any of my accomplishments in mind at the time. I have an excellent support system who has helped me throughout this season and I give them all of the credit."
Dalton said she didn't expect to have this kind of season, but was very happy when she and Phipps won the regional tournament.
"I never expected to have an undefeated season due to the fact it's my first tennis season ever, but I'm thrilled that everything played out the way it did. I expected this season to be more of a learning experience for me more than anything," Dalton said. "When we won regionals, I was ecstatic. I knew that we had accomplished something that was very hard to do and I felt like all of the work I put into this season had really paid off."
Dalton is grateful to have the opportunity to play in the state tournament and has loved playing with Phipps throughout the season.
"Knowing that we have the opportunity to go to the state tournament pushes me to try my very hardest day in and day out so that I can be at my best for the upcoming competition. I'm thrilled to have made it this far, but my main goal is to be able to hold a state title," Dalton said. "I truly don't think that I would've made it this far playing with anyone else. Kenzie has been the best partner I could've asked for and was always patient with me and willing to help me when I needed it. We really clicked from day one. We're always able to have fun in any situation and I believe that affects how we play and communicate as well."
Dalton was also thankful for everyone who has supported her throughout this season.
"I'd just like to thank my coaches, parents, partner, and the rest of the team for making this season everything it has been and for helping me since the beginning of the season," Dalton said. I couldn't have achieved any of this on my own."
Stowers was slated to begin his singles action Thursday morning against Independence, while Phipps was to play Thursday morning as well in singles against Westside. Phipps and Dalton will begin doubles play Friday afternoon against Charleston Catholic.