CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The move to a new region has given the Ripley girls tennis team a new attitude, and if this year's results are any indication, the Vikings may be establishing a new school tradition.
Ripley has spent years struggling to find success in Class AAA Region 4, which included state powers Huntington, Hurricane, Parkersburg and Cabell Midland, among others, but regional realignment split the teams up before the year.
As a result, the Vikings made their Region 3 debut at Schoenbaum Courts in Kanawha City on Thursday afternoon with five of seven top seeds and qualifying both their No. 1 and No. 2 doubles teams for the state tournament. All doubles matches were played on Thursday while singles matches are scheduled to begin today.
George Washington swept both the boys and girls doubles fields, qualifying six tandems for states. (For a full list of results, see Page 2B.)
Ripley was able to accomplish such lofty seeding by finishing the regular season 14-0, recording what coach Greg Varney said is the school's first undefeated season.
One of those wins came against Region 3 power George Washington, but the Patriots played without their No. 3 and No. 4 singles players that day due to prom.
"It was prom day for both of us and I talked our girls into late haircuts," Varney said with a smile.
That match had a lot of bearing on seeding but the full-strength Patriots earned a bit of revenge on Thursday.
But regardless of what happens on the regional level, the Vikings are soaring to new heights and could rewrite the school's record books.
"We checked our trophy case and there's one tennis trophy in all of Ripley High School and I think it's from the late '80s or early '90s," Varney said. "But our girls are the ones that checked it - they have their heads on straight."
In fact, current senior and No. 1 singles player Emily Munson clinched the only state qualification in Varney's 10-year stint at the school last year but she was knocked off in the first round.
Munson was happy to be playing at Schoenbaum Thursday instead of going to Huntington or Parkersburg.
"I've had to put up with [the Region 4 field] the past three years and it's just been hard," she said. "They have a lot more facilities around, where we have to drive farther, so it's hard to play with teams like that."