Cloverleaf’s Emily Dunbar was serving and just two points away from winning a Division II state singles championship, but Hathaway Brown’s Lauren Gillinov had other ideas.
Gillinov captured the final nine games Saturday afternoon at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason to win 6-7 (6), 7-5, 6-0 and repeat as state champion.
Dunbar, who beat Gillinov in three sets for sectional and district titles the previous two weekends, finished her junior season 34-1 and recorded the highest state placement by a female player in Medina County history.
“I was two points away,” the 16-year-old said. “I did well and I was close, so that’s good. You have to take away the positives and say, ‘I’ll come back next year and hopefully do better and close it out.’”
Dunbar was up 5-4 in the second set and serving for a state title. She led 30-15, but Gillinov won the next two points to go up 30-40. Dunbar got back to deuce, but Gillinov won two more points to get the break and never looked back.
“I think I just rushed a little bit,” Dunbar said. “I felt so close. Maybe I went for too much, and it ended up costing me the match. Hopefully, I won’t do that again.”
The University of Richmond recruit tried to regroup at 5-5 in the second set, but Gillinov controlled things from that point.
“You can’t think, ‘I’ve lost the set,’” Dunbar said. “I kept fighting and tried to get back in the next game and the match, but after I lost that (second) set, she had the momentum. Really, after I lost that game (at 5-4), she had the momentum. She played very well and maybe I didn’t play my best, but you can’t always play your best.”
The first set was a thriller, with Dunbar jumping to a 3-0 lead before Gillinov battled back to go up 5-4. The juniors eventually went to a tiebreaker, with Dunbar winning that 8-6.
The second set was equally tight, but Gillinov took over in the third to hand Dunbar her first loss of the season.
“You have to be able to fight, even when you’re two points from losing,” Dunbar said. “You never know what will happen. She kept fighting, and obviously it worked out for her.”
The 5-foot-5, 130-pound Dunbar earned first-team All-Ohio honors for her finish and is now 90-7 in her high school career. She reached the D-I quarterfinals as a freshman and sophomore to earn second-team all-state honors.
“I’m glad I did so well,” Dunbar said. “You’re never happy with a loss, but sometimes you learn more from a loss than from a win.”
Dunbar got a good test in her semifinal match Saturday morning, defeating Gilmour Academy’s Claudia Althans 7-6 (2), 6-1. Dunbar broke serve to force a first-set tiebreaker, won it and dominated the second set.
Gillinov advanced by downing Sandusky Perkins’ Olivia Rohrbacher 6-0, retired in the other semifinal. The two met in the state final a year ago, with Gillinov winning 7-6, 6-1.
Rohrbacher defaulted the third-place match to Althans, who finished fourth in 2014, due to injury. All four state semifinalists are juniors, with Gillinov, Dunbar and Althans having competed at the same district.
“I had a good season,” Dunbar said. “I feel good. Hopefully, I can do better next year.”