When a particular sports season begins on the high school level, coaches will be blessed to see familiar faces back in the fold while also facing the reality that others have departed through graduation.
Ravenswood head coach Sam Hilton knew this season would be different.
After all, he was going to be without one of the program’s top players of all-time on the boys side of the net. A player Hilton has been quite fond of since the day he was born.
The player, of course, is Hilton’s son, Max, who graduated last spring.
Before leaving the courts on the high school level, Hilton won not won, not two, but three state championships in Class AA-A.
Two of those came last spring as Hilton brought home the No. 1 singles title in Charleston and joined Ethan Rawson to the claim the No. 1 doubles crown.
“Oh my goodness," Sam Hilton said quickly on what last year meant to him as a coach and father. "I always felt Max had the potential to win (in singles) starting his freshman year. It was an amazing run.”
In addition to his two tennis titles last year, Max Hilton also won a No. 1 doubles crown as a sophomore with Nick Williams.
Ravenswood’s boys are coming off a season in which they claimed the Class AA-A Region 4 title.
“We play in a tough region," said Hilton, who enters his fifth season as Ravenswood's tennis coach for boys and girls.
Hilton, a 1977 graduate of Ravenswood, has had the good fortune of coaching a state champion in each of his years as a head coach.
The career of Max Hilton, who is now playing club tennis at WVU, coming to an end was hard to take for Sam Hilton, a former Red Devil football and tennis standout.
But his biggest challenge heading into the 2020 season is what the entire country is dealing with at the present time – the coronavirus.
Hilton, who was a member of the inaugural Ravenswood High tennis team back in 1975, is hopeful his team will see competition before the spring is over.
On the boys side, Rawson, a senior, takes over the No. 1 singles spot.
Besides his championship with Hilton last year at No. 1 doubles, Rawson teamed with Michael Boggs for the Class AA-A No. 3 state championship in 2018.
Boggs, now a junior, will be at No. 2 singles this year.
Sophomore Kaden Williams will play at No. 3 while Dylan Winters, a sophomore, is set to compete at No. 4.
Seniors Noah Smithson, Ethan Chase and Chris Perry along with junior Jacob Murray and sophomore Grant Thacker are also competing for playing time on the court.
Rawson and Boggs are set to become doubles partners once again this season in the No. 1 slot.
“They’re a pretty good team together,” said Hilton.
Williams and Winters had earned the No. 2 spot when preseason work was shut down due to the virus.
Murray had earned one of the two spots for the No. 3 doubles team.
Going into this season Hilton has a feeling his girls team could win the regional championship.
Jillian Throneberry, a senior, leads the way as the No. 1 singles player.
“This is her second year at No. 1,” said Hilton. “She was in the State Tournament last year and lost to the eventual state champion.”
At No. 2 will be Ashley Wright, a lefthanded sophomore.
“She’s really impressed me.”
The No. 3 position has been claimed by Annabelle Alfred, a senior, with Emma Weekley, another senior and the cousin of former No. 1 player Grace Weekley, at No. 4.
“This is her first year out and she has earned the No. 4 spot,” said Hilton.
“This team has depth. Which is something we haven’t had in a long time. They’ve took some lumps.”
Throneberry and Weekley will be the No. 1 doubles team. Wright and Alfred will be at No. 2 with No. 3 being occupied by Skyler Varney, a senior, and freshman Kelsey Durback.
Another player competing for playing time is freshman Julie Durback, Kelsey’s cousin.
“I just hope something can be worked out and that these kids can get some type of season,” Hilton said.