WHEELING - Summer is officially under way, and the tennis action will be sizzling at the Oglebay Tennis Center this weekend as the Oglebay Junior Tennis Classic brings together some of the area's finest up-and-coming talent.
Action begins this morning at the center's pristine Har-Tru courts.
Dubbed ''Wimbledon in the Woods,'' the event has become one of the top stops for elite players in the United States Tennis Association's Middle States Allegheny Mountain District.
''This is our big tournament and we have a lot of great players coming in,'' Marc White, head of tennis at Oglebay and tournament director, said Thursday evening during a break in the final preparations.
A plethora of competitors are entered in the tournament, which concludes Sunday. Players will compete in singles and doubles in the following age groups - 18, 16, 14 and 12.
The tournament is the culmination of a busy week at the facility.
''We had a great junior tennis camp this whole week,'' White said. ''A lot of those players were in tournament training.''
One of the things White is proud of is the fact many boys and girls who've taken part in various development programs at Oglebay have ''graduated'' into the tournament.
''We've had some kids who've participated in our 10-Under Superstar program move up (into the tournament),'' White said.
White is like a proud papa watching his former students see the fruits of their labor realized.
''It's exciting to see the new growth at the bottom levels and seeing them push the high school players,'' White said.
''The story here this year is the development of our camps and academies and seeing players from those playing in the tournament.
''This will spark them to want to continue the process and work even harder.''
Eighty Four, Pa.'s Matthew Lynch is the top seed in Boys' 18 Singles. John Marshall's Hayden Blazer and Wheeling Central's Jonathon Haley - both fresh off of state tournament appearances - will provide Lynch competition.
In Boys' 16 Singles, White said keep an eye on Jesse Newton, of Claysville, Pa., and Austin Douglass of St. Clairsville.
''They were in our middle school program and now they playing on their high school teams and No. 1 and No. 3, respectively,'' White noted.
Another pair of players - Brendan Ryan, of St. Clairsville, and Andrew Landeen, of Bridgeport - highlight the Boys' 14 Singles. Both have worked their way up through local development programs.
Other area boys competing include Derek Dearth (Wheeling, age 14), Joshua Ekanem (Moundsville, age 12) and Isaac Smith (Moundsville, age 12).
Amanda Bruscemi, of McKees Rock, Pa., is the top seed in Girls' 18 Singles.
Linsly's Jackie McDermott is the No. 2 seed in the division that also includes JM's Alaina Pauley.
White has also been pleased with the progress of Moundsville's Amika Ekanem, who will play in Girls' 14 Singles.
''It's going to be an exciting weekend,'' White said. "Come out and enjoys some great junior tennis.''