Emily Hadler and Rachel Fannin will take the no-pressure, nothing-to-lose approach at the Division I state tennis tournament.
After finishing fourth in doubles at the Medina District, the Highland duo will meet Upper Arlington’s Evelyn Holman and Erin Storrer in the first round Friday morning at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
Holman, a senior, and Storrer, a junior, finished second at the Central/East/Southeast District. They won a match at state last year and were eliminated in the quarterfinals.
“I’m really motivated to do well,” said Fannin, a junior who fell one win shy of a district berth in singles last year. “Winning a match is definitely the goal.
“I’m just excited. I was proud of myself last year and I’m proud of myself this year. It’s just different because it’s doubles.”
Should Hadler and Fannin win in the first round, their quarterfinal opponent will be the winner of the match between Southwest District champions Sanjana Reddy and Ananya Aggarwal of Mason and fifth-place Medina District finishers Cece Economus and Sydney Cianciola of Canfield.
Reigning Gazette MVP Hadler, a district qualifier as a freshman and state qualifier as a sophomore in singles, says taking it “game by game and point by point” will be the key for her and the left-handed Fannin.
“There’s not a lot of pressure,” the junior said. “Both Rachel and I are in our first time at state in doubles. I think we’re the underdogs going into the match because the team we’re playing already made it to state. It’s less pressure being the underdog, for sure.
“It was definitely a good decision (to play doubles). I probably wouldn’t have made it to state if I had plyed singles.”
Fannin, Highland’s No. 2 singles player during the regular season, has no personal experience against the Hornets’ first-round opponent, but No. 1 singles player Hadler has defeated Shi twice in United States Tennis Association matches and lost to Holman in a pro set.
“They have more experience than us considering they played doubles last year, but they’re still beatable,” Hadler said. “We should at least be able to give them a good match.”
With the larger Medina District advancing the top six finishers in singles and doubles to state, Hadler and Fannin could have secured a higher seeding, but they lost in three sets in the semifinals, which would have guaranteed a top-two finish, and again in three sets in their third-place match.
In the semifinals, the Hornets had an opportunity to go up 4-1 in the third set, but lost that game and ultimately the match.
“I thought we played really well,” Hadler said. “The only thing we kind of struggled with was closing out games.”
That’s why it’s important for the Hornets to play one point at a time at state.
“I thought we could have won (at districts),” Fannin said. “We were both just a little off. Nothing was going our way.”
Seeding is a little less important at the state tournament, however, because while the Medina (Northeast) District advanced six teams, the Central/East/Southeast and Southwest tournaments sent four each and the small Northwest event advanced two.
“Looking at the draw, in the first round it doesn’t matter a whole lot, I guess,” Hadler said. “I’m pretty sure most of the four seeds have a shot at winning the first match.”
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