Tuesday, July 16, 2019 Medina 71°

High School Tennis

Highland doubles team qualifies for state tournament


BATH TWP. — Highland’s Emily Hadler and Rachel Fannin took the easy route — and made it look easy as well — while securing a doubles berth in the Division I state tennis tournament.

Medina’s Elizabeth Stuart will have to do it the hard way to advance in singles play.

Juniors who manned their team’s top singles positions in the regular season, reigning Gazette MVP Hadler and All-Gazette choice Fannin cruised to two wins Thursday at the Medina District, earning them a spot in the semifinals Saturday at 9 a.m. at Springside Racquet & Fitness Club.

“Rachel handled the pressure so well,” said Hadler, a state qualifier in singles last year. “For her to go from not getting out of sectionals to making state is really cool.”

The Medina Sectional champs beat Mayfield’s Shannon McGill and Katerina Ng 6-3, 6-1 in the first round at districts, then downed Magnificat’s Emily Pallaki and Hannah Klubnik 6-1, 6-3 in the quarterfinals.

“It’s exciting,” the left-handed Fannin said of qualifying for state. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Hadler and Fannin will meet Solon Sectional champions Hannah Kassaie and Caitlyn Hsu of Mayfield in the semifinals, while Medina’s Stuart will play an all-or-nothing match against Canton Sectional champion Laurel Utterback of North Canton Hoover.

Stuart, the Medina Sectional champ, beat Twinsburg’s Claudia Nmai 6-0, 6-0 in the first round but fell 6-0, 6-0 to Westlake’s Emma Peeler in the quarterfinals. Peeler, who finished second to reigning state champion Anna Roggenburk of Magnificat at districts in 2017, beat Stuart by the same score last year, but that one came in the win-or-go-home first round.

Since the top six finishers in singles and doubles advance, Stuart can still secure a state berth with a win over Utterback, who lost 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to Magnificat’s Olivia Rondini in a marathon quarterfinal match. If the Medina sophomore wins there, her next match would determine fifth and sixth place.

“There’s nothing to lose,” said Stuart, an All-Gazette pick as a freshman. “If I make it to state, that would be awesome. If I don’t, I still have two more years left, and I’ve already made it further than I did last year.”

Hadler and Fannin won’t have the same pressure Saturday, but the higher they finish among the top four, the better chance they’ll have, in theory, of winning a first-round match at state.

They cruised in the first round Thursday, then jumped to a 6-1, 3-0 lead over Pallaki and Klubnik before the Magnificat duo rallied to tie the second set. Hadler and Fannin then won three straight games to close the match.

“We just had to finish the match and keep our focus,” Hadler said. “I’ve come back when I’ve been down 3-0 (in singles) and I’ve had people do it against me. You just have to keep on playing and keep the focus and not let it get to you.”

Added Fannin: “We played how we did in the first match. We knew if we kept playing like that, we’d do well.”

After posting a double bagel in her first match — “I played very well,” she said — Stuart ran into a freight train in Peeler.

“She was just hitting the ball so hard and hitting the lines,” Stuart said. “She probably only missed two shots the entire match. She’s just so consistent. I was trying to play my best and be as consistent as I could, but she was just so good that, honestly, it didn’t matter.”

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

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