WHEELING — The North Marion High School girls’ tennis team captured its first regional championship in school history Tuesday at the Region I A-AA tournament in Wheeling.
The Huskies finished the tournament tied at 22 points with eventual runner-up Oak Glen and bested the Golden Bears by virtue of having more individual titles (4-2).
Tournament play began on Monday inside the “bubble” at Wheeling Park with doubles play only. North Marion kicked off their championship run by seizing both doubles titles over Oak Glen at the No. 1 and No. 2 positions.
Seniors Devin Besedich and Kiley Brown blitzed the Bears’ duo of Lyndsey Reynolds and Katie Zoellers 8-0 in the final to set the tone for what was to become a two-team race. In No. 2 doubles, senior Lea Barker and junior Raquel Taylor defeated Oak Glen’s Kittawana McKinley and Maeghan Fisher 8-3.
Oak Glen would get their revenge in No. 3 doubles. The Golden Bears duo of Kylie Conkle and Gabrielle Pasco eked out a 9-8 tiebreak win in the semifinals over the Huskies duo of freshman Caroline Furbee and sophomore Kenzie Fluharty. The Huskies failed to capitalize on two match points with a 7-6 lead and eventually dropped the tiebreaker 7-1.
The Golden Bears would go on to win the title at No. 3 doubles, ending day one in a dead heat with the Huskies 10-10.
Day two began with singles play and both teams entered as either No. 1 or No. 2 seeds, affording them first-round byes. At No. 1 singles, North’s Besedich fell to Fairmont Senior’s Abby Tillemma 8-4 in the semis. Oak Glen failed to capitalize, however, as Reynolds also fell in the semis, 8-5 to Frankfort’s Erin Clark.
At No. 2 singles, Oak Glen seized on an upset, as the Huskie’s No. 2 Kiley Brown fell in the semis to surprise finalist Kennedy Shives from Berkeley Springs. The Golden Bears’ Zoellers made the most of the opportunity, defeating Frankfort’s Tiffany Sites in the semis 9-7 and consolidating the title over Shives 8-6.
Entering the final positions, the Huskies trailed Oak Glen 22-20, needing titles at both positions to force the aforementioned tiebreak scenario. First up for the Huskies was Barker, fresh off an 8-6 semifinal comeback over Fairmont Senior’s Clara Deskins. In the end, it was Barker who asserted herself early and often in the final against Oak Glen’s McKinley, avenging a regular season loss and taking the title 8-4 over the No. 1 seed.
The stage was set for the final match of the tournament — North Marion’s Raquel Taylor would take the court to face Oak Glen’s Kylie Conkle in a winner-take-all final for the ages.
Taylor, who entered as the No. 1 seed, did it all in the final, as both girls battled the elements and both left bloodied from the intense, back-and-forth play. “Rock,” as she is affectionately called by her coach, was just that, taking the title 8-5 and clinching the team title for the Huskies.
North Marion, whose title capped off a historic 14-1 regular season, will send all four girls to Charleston next week to compete in the state tournament.