Though she lost decisively, Highland sophomore Emily Hadler enjoyed the Division I state tennis tournament so much that she vows to work even harder to get back to the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason the next two years.
Hadler was eliminated from the singles competition this morning with a 6-0, 6-1 first-round loss to Pickerington North sophomore Cassie Alcala, but she spent the rest of the day watching the other talented players at the event.
The 15-year-old won't be on hand for the semifinals and finals Saturday, however, as she will be attending 12-year-old brother Elijah's nearby United States Tennis Association tournament.
"Even though I lost pretty bad, it was really cool," Hadler said in a phone interview. "Right now I'm watching all these other girls. It's a really good experience. I definitely learned a lot.
"My goal for next year is I want to make the state tournament again. Hopefully, I'll at least have a closer match in the first round. These girls I'm getting beaten by, if I work harder, I can have closer matches with them, I think."
Hadler, who was sixth at the Medina District, won her only game against Alcala, the Hilliard District champ and a returning state qualifier, midway through the second set.
Earning a high finish at districts next year would improve Hadler's state tournament draw, but that won't be easy. The six 2017 state qualifiers from Northeast Ohio consisted of three sophomores and three juniors, and the top three district finishers this year included the 2016 state runner-up, a returning state quarterfinalist and a returning state qualifier.
Hadler, though, is determined to put in the work. After finishing her sophomore season with a 34-7 record and earning her first state berth, she plans to take "a couple of days off" and then get back on the tennis court.
Having also played soccer, basketball and softball in middle school, Hadler won't play hoops this year after making the Highland junior varsity team as a freshman.
"That was four months last year that I didn't really get better at tennis," she said. "It was kind of tough (to give up basketball), but I was ready to be done with it."
Hadler is far from done with tennis, though, as she plans to become a more complete player in the high school offseason.
"I've been working on my net game a lot," she said. "That's a really big advantage. If a player is good at the net, they're hard to beat.
"Everyone's a good player down here. It's really cool to watch all these different games and experience it. It's awesome."
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