Tuesday, July 16, 2019 Medina 71°

High School Tennis

Seeds of success: Medina's Stuart, Highland doubles team get key sectional wins


BATH TWP. — It was a great Saturday for Medina County girls tennis players at the Medina Division I Sectional.

Second-seeded Medina sophomore Elizabeth Stuart won the singles championship at Springside Health & Racquet Club, while top-seeded Highland juniors Emily Hadler and Rachel Fannin did the same in doubles.

Next up is the Medina District on Thursday and Saturday at Springside, where the top six finishers in singles and doubles will advance to the state tournament. The county entrants will play fourth-place sectional finishers in the first round, which greatly increases their chances of getting to state.

“I am very happy I got the No. 1 seed,” said Stuart, who beat Kent Roosevelt’s fourth-seeded Maya McDaniel 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals and Strongsville’s third-seeded Paige Meyer 6-2, 6-2 in the final. “I’m very hopeful I can win the first match (at districts).”

Stuart started quickly in the sectional semis, winning the first three games against McDaniel and then adjusting to everything the talented freshman threw at her.

“I was just playing my game, hitting aggressively,” Stuart said. “I was hitting more shots in than she was. Then she changed to more lobbing and loopy balls, so I had to be very patient and wait for that ball in the middle of the court and take advantage of that.

“She tried a lot of different things. I was just hitting my shots in the beginning and coming in aggressively when she would lob later in the match.”

In improving to 3-2 in high school matches against Meyer, who beat top-seeded Mia Zivkovic of Brecksville in three sets in the semis, Stuart took advantage of her opponent’s fatigue, as Saturday also was Strongsville’s homecoming dance.

“She played really well,” Stuart said. “We had some awesome rallies. We were both hitting really hard, but she went three sets (in the semis) and I didn’t, which played a role.”

In doubles, Hadler and Fannin turned out to be the real warriors. They beat Walsh Jesuit’s fourth-seeded Tatum Carmichael and Katie Devine 6-3, 6-0 in the semis and then downed the Warriors’ second-seeded Lily Joyce and Emma Kealy 6-7 (6), 6-0, 6-1 in the final.

“It feels really, really good to win it last year in singles and come back this year and win it in doubles,” said Hadler, a two-time All-Gazette choice and reigning county MVP.

A state qualifier in singles last year as a sophomore, it was No. 1 singles player Hadler who approached classmate Fannin, Highland’s second singles player in the regular season, about teaming up in the postseason.

“She had the confidence in me,” the left-handed Fannin said. “I couldn’t let her down after she put her faith in me. I feel like I rose to the occasions and did my job.

“I’m really proud of myself and of Emily. I started crying after the match, I was so happy. That was one of my biggest matches and I thought we played really well.”

The Highland duo cruised in the semifinals against Carmichael and Devine, who played doubles together in the regular season.

“They’ve been playing together the whole season, where we’ve played less than 10 matches together,” Hadler said. “The key was to keep pushing forward to the net and taking chances. It works.”

In the final against normal Walsh Jesuit singles players Joyce and Kealy, the Highland duo dropped a first-set tiebreaker but dominated after that.

“Something clicked,” Hadler said. “We put them on their backs and we didn’t turn around. That’s why we won so easily.”

Added Fannin: “This match really built my confidence, personally. As a team, I feel really confident. That was a really good team. I was surprised we beat them so badly in the second and third sets, so I think we’re going to do really well (at districts).”

Because the top six finishers in singles and doubles advance from the larger Medina District to state, entrants need only win their first match and one of their next two to qualify. The key to doing something once at state, however, is winning at least the first two matches at the district, which guarantees placing in the top four.

“We can beat almost anyone, whereas in singles there’s a lot bigger gap,” said Hadler, who lost in the first round of singles play at state last year. “Whoever shows up and plays the best tennis on Thursday is who is going to win the most matches.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.

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