Linsly wins yet another OVAC girls tennis title
GLEN DALE — It just gets better with age.
The Linsly girls’ tennis team extended its OVAC small school championship streak to nine straight on Wednesday at John Marshall and this one was just as sweet.
“I’m just so proud of our girls,” Linsly coach Dave Riethmiller said. “From No. 1 to No. 6, they all fought for every point. They have such character and I’m just proud of every one of them.”
It’s the 14th OVAC title for the Linsly girls’ tennis program and the nine straight victories is an OVAC record for consecutive titles.
“It’s been quite a ride,” Riethmiller said. “I have just been blessed with a lot of good players.
“Half of our team is made of seniors and we’re going to miss them like crazy. I’m just so happy for our seniors to win this year. They all played great.”
The Cadets tallied 14 points to earn the win, eight points ahead of runner-up Magnolia, while Morgantown put on a dominant performance to win the big school title with a perfect score of 28, while sweeping the individual titles.
Wheeling Park was the big school runner-up at 16 points.
Leading Linsly was No. 1 singles standout Rachel Ekanem.
The freshman was the No. 2 seed in the bracket and journeyed all the way to the title match, where she fell in an epic bout to Morgantown sophomore Emme McKnight–the bracket’s No. 1 overall seed.
McKnight has been on a mission since falling last year in the title to Wheeling Central’s Laina Anderson.
“I could tell all year long that she had a different attitude,” Morgantown coach Ted Greenlee said of McKnight. “She was really upset after losing last year but she had a different attitude this year and was gearing up for this tournament.
“(Ekanem) almost came back but something clicked at the end for Emme. She settled down and won the last two.
“All of our girls just played like champions (Wednesday).”
McKnight was clicking on all cylinders early as she raced out to a convincing 6-0 advantage over Ekanem but the Linsly leader gave her team hope with a thrilling comeback effort.
Ekanem won the next five sets to cut the deficit to 6-5 but McKnight regrouped and finished the match with an 8-5 triumph.
Despite the loss, Ekanem left the court with a smile after leaving everything on it.
“She almost pulled off the greatest comeback,” Riethmiller said of Ekanem. “She just really fought back. She is a great athlete and loves tennis. She works hard at it all year round, which is what it takes.”
In the No. 1 singles semifinals, Ekanem upended Anderson for the third time this season by an 8-6 advantage, while McKnight downed Wheeling Park senior Abby Jones, 8-3.
“There were four really good players at the No. 1 spot this year,” Park coach Stephanie Sada said. “It was tough competition but Abby worked really hard. She played really well but it just didn’t end in our favor. Emme is a really strong player and all of Morgantown’s girls are really good.
“They deserve everything they get.”
Linsly’s Selina Zhu also made a run to the No. 4 singles championship but fell to Morgantown senior Bella Mascari 8-1 in the title.
Zhu defeated Park’s Emma Ihlenfeld 8-6 in a marathon during the semifinal.
For Park, No. 2 Teresa Simon and No. 3 Ashley Trischler each appeared in their respective championships. Simon fell to Morgantown’s Cat Wassick 8-1 and Trischler was ousted 8-0 by Morgantown senior Mackenzie Sorton, who are both repeat champions.
“I’m super proud of Teresa and Ashley,” Sada said. “They worked hard all season and came in (Wednesday) and did what they had to do to get to the finals.”
Other locals to reach the semifinals were John Marshall’s No. 2 Mackenzie Whorton, Linsly’s No. 3 Caitlin Mead and Magnolia No. 3 Raegan Hale.