By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian
After seven tennis players from Marion County advanced to the state tournament, Fairmont Senior coach Mark Giorcelli thought his team deserved a day off.
Alissa Link, the Polar Bears’ No. 1 singles player, had different thoughts. She called her coach on Sunday. Forget the day off; she wanted to practice.
The season of hard work will come to a conclusion when the two-day state tennis tournament begins today in Charleston at 8 a.m.
In addition to Link, Fairmont Senior will send No. 2 Blake Hoke and No. 3 doubles team Eviana Barnes and Jasmine Johnson to the tournament. They will be joined by East Fairmont’s No. 2 doubles team Erica Gorman and Brittiany Brumage, and No. 2 singles player Cara Laswell.
Each athlete faces different obstacles throughout the tournament, but East Fairmont coach Rodney Anselene said the one common thread is that he expects all of his tennis players to contend.
Laswell will be up against Wyoming East’s Erika Kissell in the first round.
“The most important thing for Cara is to play her game to the best of her ability,” Anselene said. “I think she’ll do well. We just have to play within ourselves.”
The doubles team of Gorman and Brumage will square off with a team from Bluefield. The duo made it to the tournament because each player made the most of her strength. Brumage brings agility and vocal leadership, while Gorman relies on consistent ground strokes.
“I think the two of them have developed a fairly good chemistry together,” Anselene said. “Brittiany is a go-getter and Erica is a better baseline player. I think that kind of complements them.”
Fairmont Senior’s doubles team of Barnes and Johnson will also be up against a team from Bluefield, a testament to the strength of that program. But Giorcelli is confident that his squad can rise to the occasion.
“Bluefield has a very good program, a top-of-the-line program,” he said. “I think Jasmine and Eviana will have their hands full, but I think they’re capable of beating anybody.
“The unique thing about them is they don’t bow down. If they play someone tough, they step it up.”
Hoke, the only male competitor from Marion County, will be up against Nick Lawrence from West Side. Giorcelli admitted that he didn’t know a lot about the opponent, but he believes that Hoke’s work ethic has prepared him for the stage.
“He lives on the courts,” Giorcelli said. “The minute he gets out of school, he eats, drinks and sleeps tennis. That boy is fascinating. By the time I get up there to work with him, he’s in meditation mode from three hours of his own workout.”
The majority of the local athletes going to the state tournament are young, a sign of a bright tennis future in Marion County. The one exception is Link, the lone senior in a field filled with two freshmen, three sophomores and one junior.
“What a better way to go out her senior year than to qualify for states and get to play competition like this,” Giorcelli said.
He added: “I’m excited for all of them. They’re going to get to see some very beautiful tennis. It would be awesome to see them go far or even take it all the way.”
Email Mike DeFabo at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.