The Times West Virginian

Prep Sports

May 19, 2014

Giorcelli returns to state championship court

FAIRMONT — Mark Giorcelli smiled from ear to ear as he posed for a photo next to his coach, Bill Malone.

Court No. 7 at the Kanawha City Tennis Center in Charleston provided the backdrop for the photo. Throughout the weekend at the West Virginia state tennis tournament, dozens of other tennis players from across the mountain state took similar photos — player and coach beaming after winning a state title.

The only difference for Giorcelli and Malone was that instead of the championship coming this past weekend, it happened 35 years ago when Giorcelli was a student at East Fairmont High School.

Still, when Giorcelli stood in front of Court No. 7 — reunited with the venue for the first time since he won 6-4, 6-4 to claim the No. 4 singles title as a sophomore — he felt some of the same emotions as the others who had won just hours earlier.

“You go down there and you look at the courts and you see the players and you want to get out there,” Giorcelli said. “It seems like it was just yesterday. I remembered it like the back of my hand.”

The way Giorcelli remembers it, he was a big underdog coming into the tournament and “came out of nowhere” to win it all. The unlikely title remains the only individual state championship in East Fairmont High School history, something Bees’ coach Rodney Anselene made sure he let his team know about.

“That’s the first thing I did. I introduced him to them and said this is the only state champion we have at East Fairmont High School,” said Anselene, who wasn’t too shabby a tennis player himself, qualifying three times for the state tournament and winning the regional twice while playing on the same team as Giorcelli at East Fairmont High School.

It’s easy for the two teammates to wax nostalgic about their days in high school — the hard-fought matches, the regional and state championships, the way tennis “used to be.”

Now, 35 years later, their roles have changed. Anselene has taken over as the coach at East Fairmont, while Giorcelli crossed the river to run the Fairmont Senior program.

The two coaches said that when they were in high school, tennis was a much more popular sport. Their goal is to inspire the next generation of athletes by sharing their experience.

“They’re going to put the time into it,” Malone said. “I’m hoping that those two guys will make it hotbed of tennis again.”

This weekend, they took the first step toward that goal by sending seven players — four from Fairmont Senior, three from East Fairmont — to the tournament.

“I think we’re trying to pass on the work ethic and what it takes to get down there year in and year out,” said Anselene. “What we’re trying to do is bring back the excitement and get kids playing. Once we get groups of kids playing we’ll be able to play on higher level.”

While the Marion County players fell short of winning it all, Giorcelli said he and his assistant Lisa Towns are noticing a shift in their mentality.

When they dropped the players off at home after the tournament, he said Alissa Link turned to Blake Hoke and said, “Ok, I’ll meet you at the courts in 15 minutes.”

With that attitude, he believes that the next state championship might not be far behind. And, who knows, it might even happen on Court No. 7.

Said Giorcelli, “This is just the beginning.”

Email Mike DeFabo at or follow him on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.

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