In the West Virginia high school tennis format, here is a strong hint your team might be good: Your defending No. 1 state champ is playing No. 3 singles a year later.
Such is the case with Charleston Catholic's girls this year, as Anna Wood is playing behind Mary Emma Maddox and Claire Hamilton, last year's No. 2 and No. 4 champs, respectively. It wasn't a case of Wood tumbling as much as it was a case of Maddox and Hamilton adopting the sport as a year-round pursuit.
Not to say Wood isn't serious about it, but she played a pivotal role in the Irish's state semifinalist basketball team. When that ended, it was time to pick up a racket and fight for team position.
Maddox also used to participate in another sport in the winter, but no more. She improved so much on the court, she won the No. 1 spot despite having to serve underhanded. Her shoulder has since healed.
"I think she has retired from swimming completely," said coach Melanie Schlarb. "Last year, she had a shoulder injury from swimming, and that probably hindered her a lot from being 'one' singles."
Wood had a brief shock, but she is enjoying the role. It's less stressful for her this week - instead of hacking through two three-set marathons like she did last year, she has blown through two matches without losing a game. Ravenswood's Taylor Youell will take a crack at her today as the championship round begins at 8 a.m.
And Wood is keeping in touch with the top level as Maddox's doubles partner. They are longtime friends, partners and mutual admirers of each other's game.
"She a lefty and she has fantastic angles," Wood said of Maddox. "And she has gotten a lot stronger and hits it so much harder, and her net [skills] have really improved."
"I had a closer match with Claire, but Anna's game, I always have problems with it," Maddox said. "She's just so consistent."
Don't expect Huntington or Catholic to go away anytime soon. Between the four teams, there aren't many losses to graduation.