CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If the Huntington High boys tennis team is to win its third consecutive Class AAA state championship, it is going to have to get through some stiff competition from within its own conference.
George Washington won the Mountain State Athletic Conference boys tennis championship on Tuesday, defeating Huntington players at every seed but No. 1 singles in the championship round at the Ivor F. Boiarsky Tennis Center at Coonskin Park.
"It gives us a little bit of an idea of who else is out there and it gives them a little bit of a chance to get used to playing more often," Huntington boys coach Aaron McGuffin said. "So they're learning how to pace themselves physically and eat right and do all the detail work that I think is very important when you end up having to play a lot of matches in a short period of time."
The Highlander boys ran away with last season's state crown with five individual titles, led by Hunter Tubert at No. 1 singles. Tubert, a sophomore, won an MSAC title Tuesday afternoon with an 8-3 win against George Washington's Ryan Massinople.
"Hunter's been playing national tournaments since he could walk," McGuffin said. "He is used to a higher level of competition than anything, unfortunately, the state tournament can offer him. He's played the best of the best in the nation, so I think this is fun for him and it allows him to be more into the team concept. His skill level is phenomenal because he's played so much for so long."
The rest of the team did not fare as well as Tubert. George Washington's title came with individual wins at No. 2 (Zack Koenig), No. 3 (Nick Koenig), No. 4 (Thomas McIntosh) and third doubles.
GW coach Chris Luckett said between the talent he has on his team this year and what the Highlanders lost from last season's team, he thinks the Patriots have a good opportunity to make a championship run of their own.
"Huntington lost a lot last year," he said. "The talent that I have this year is different just because it's young talent. I have mostly all freshmen except for two juniors. The kids that they have are a little older than the freshmen I have but they don't have the match experience my team has. The first time we played them it seemed like the matches were not as close as they were today. At the state tournament I expect it will be a good run for both schools"
GW beat Huntington 5-2 in the regular-season meeting between the two schools, with the Patriots' only two losses coming at No. 1 to Tubert and No. 2 to Campbell Neighborgall. Zack Koenig exacted some revenge on Tuesday, beating Neighborgall 8-5 for a conference championship.
McGuffin said the core of the last two state championship teams may be gone for the Highlanders, but he expects the current group to still achieve at a high level.
"The last team that came through was a group of five freshmen that stayed on for four consecutive years and was full of seniors," he said. "This is completely retooled team. The past two state championships we've had some veteran players that have been really good individual players."
Regional tournaments will take place the first week of May with the state championship tournament scheduled for May 9, 10 and 11 in Charleston.
Reach Tom Bragg at tom.br...@wvgazette.com.