- Debbie Juniewicz Contributing Writer
Dropping her first two games was a wake-up call for Lily McCloskey.
The Oakwood freshman was understandably a bit awestruck playing at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason for the first time – on the same courts where the best players in the world compete each summer. But while she has come to watch the pros many times, it was her time to take the court at Southwest District Tennis Tournament.
“It was so cool playing there and I was so excited but, after I lost the first two games, I thought to myself, ‘I should probably focus now,’” McCloskey said.
The Jills’ No. 1 singles player did just that, rattling off the next 12 games to take her Division II singles first round match over Neda Tehrani, of Seven Hills, 6-2, 6-0 Thursday.
McCloskey carried that momentum into her quarterfinal match against Indian Hill freshman Jessie Budde, taking the opening set 6-0. Budde kept it close in the second set but McCloskey prevailed, 6-3, to advance to the semifinals and secure a state berth.
“I am really excited,” she said. “I had been stressed about this, knowing that a loss would mean the end of my season. I want to keep it going as long as possible.”
McCloskey – who improved to 28-1 with the pair of district wins – will face Middletown Madison senior Madi Porter in the D-II singles semifinals Saturday. Porter, whose state quest was halted by eventual district champion Kelly Pleiman, of Chaminade Julienne last season, topped Cincinnati Country Day freshman Abby Blum, 6-2, 6-3, Thursday in the state-qualifying match.
While McCloskey just began her high school tennis career and Porter is wrapping hers up, both know the importance of seedings, especially at the state tournament. McCloskey, however, has the luxury of three more years of high school tennis.
“Of course you always want to win but, at the very least, I want to be able to say I improved every year,” she said.
Sister act: Springboro sisters Anke and Reka Patel had their work cut out for them Thursday. The Panthers were up to the challenge.
The top-seeded siblings fought through long points and tight games to edge out Raina Chada and Annie Kruse, of Mason, 7-5, 7-6 (3) in the opening round of D-I doubles play. And it didn’t get any easier in the quarterfinals as the Panthers lost the first set to the St. Ursula team of Taylor Kunci and Gabby Gockerman, 6-3.
But Anke and Reka, who played first and second singles for Springboro, respectively, during the regular season, fought back to a 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 win, qualifying to the D-I state tournament.
The Patel sisters will face Harsitha Kalaiarasan and Helen Sotropa, of Sycamore, in the semifinals. The Division I and II singles and doubles semifinals get underway Saturday at 9 a.m. in Mason.