Local Sports, Sports

University High tennis team gaining confidence, sweep John Marshall to begin April

UHS head coaches Tom McClellan and Gary Barcinas know how much talent they have on both the boys and girls side of their tennis team. However, what is lacking is something you can’t teach; experience. Between both sides of the team, only four seniors are involved. In fact, both of the first-ranked singles players, Lyla Byers for the girls, and Andrew McClellan for the boys, are both freshman.

The Hawks welcomed John Marshall on a brisk but sunny morning at the WVU tennis complex.

It was a clean sweep for the UHS boys and girls, both taking their match 7-0 in total games won.

McClellan earned the most decisive victory of the day in the No. 1 singles match where he faced Nate Flowers of JMHS. 8-0 would be the final score giving McClellan his best win so far this season.

“I think my season has been going great so far,” the UHS freshman said. “I’ve had some very close matches and some tough losses but I think I can really come out and shock some people at regionals.”

Coach McClellan agreed with Andrew’s words, knowing how much his game has improved already this season and having confidence in his late-season form.

“Andrew is an up-and-coming freshman in a senior-laden region who is starting to push the older players,” coach McClellan said. “He has been extremely competitive in an experienced region and I think he will surprise some players later in the year.”

The rest of the boys’ matches finished as follows:

Singles: No .2 Salah Abunnaja def. Colby Morris 8-6; No. 3 Andrew Lerfald def. Mack Mills 8-2; No. 4 Julian Stealey def. Kenny Arrick 8-0

Doubles: No. 1 McClellan/Lerfeld def. Morris/Mills 8-4; No. 2 Abunnaja/Stealey def. Flowers/Arrick 8-5; No. 3 Ryan Minchau/Owen Minchau def. Hayden Daniels/Fred Carroll 8-4

On the girls’ side, the brooms were out for the clean sweep, with the matches being larger deficits than the boys.

Like McClellan on the boys’ side, Lyla Byers is a freshman playing in the top spot for singles for the Hawks. Despite her age, Byers is already one of the best players in the state, who is aiming to take a state title home in her first year playing for UHS.

“Lyla is an all-star within the state and she continues to adapt to high school tennis,” McClellan said of Byers. “Lyla and Deah Garib will definitely compete for a state title at No. 1 doubles this year.”

Byers dropped the first set of her match against JMHS No. 1 Lauren Tekely, but quickly turned it around to win eight straight games to take the match by a commanding score of 8-1.

“I don’t usually play players in my tournaments outside of school that play the same as players I play during the school year,” Byers said after dropping her first game. “She [Tekely] had a nice forehand and hit a bit of a slice and I’m not used to playing against a slice so I just had to adjust. The weather isn’t perfect also so that doesn’t help.”

Byers says her goal is to win the state title this year. It will be a tough road with a lot of strong players that she could potentially matchup with.

The rest of the girls’ matches finished as follows:

Singles: No. 2 Deah Gharib def. Lilly Roman 8-0; No. 3 Emma Rusiecki def. Faith Wachter 8-0; No. 4 Sydney Takacs def. Tessa Tordella 8-4

Doubles: No. 1 Byers/Gharib def. Roman/Tekely 8-0; No. 2 Brooklyn Rutledge/Rusiecki def. Wachter/Tordella 8-1; No. 4 Takacs/Emma Daffner def. Lauren Rice/Natalie Briggs 8-4

“I am really pleased with how our team is improving. Every match is noticeably better and they are all learning how to put away the critical points,” said McClellan of his team’s season so far.

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