After three sets, 34 games, four hard-fought hours and countless high fives, the Springboro sister team of Anke and Reka Patel fell just short of the title.
Ursuline’s Nina Dhaliwal and Gabriella O’Connor battled to a 5-7, 7-5, 6-4 win over Springboro for the Division I Southwest District high school doubles title at the Lindner Family Tennis Center on Saturday.
It was the second top-seeded team that the Lions dispensed with Saturday. They also beat Mason’s Sanjana Reddy and Nicole Reid, 6-3, 6-2, in the semifinals.
The Springboro sisters edged Sycamore’s Harsitha Kalaiarasan and Helen Sotropa, 7-5, 6-3, in their semifinal to advance to the championship match.
Tied one set apiece and 4-4 in the third, it was anybody’s match for the D-I title, but it was the determined third-seeded Lions who came up big late with strong serving and precise placement. The state-bound Springboro siblings will be second seeds next week.
Never say die: Down a set and trailing 0-3 in the second, Oakwood's Lily McCloskey was not about to call it quits. The freshman fought to a 5-4 lead before falling to Summit Country Day's Elizabeth Fahrmeier, 6-3, 7-5, for the D-II district singles championship.
“I tried to stay calm the whole time and just play each point,” McCloskey said.
McCloskey sped to a 6-0, 6-0 semifinal win over Madison senior Madi Porter to advance to the title match. The speedy semifinal had both pros and cons.
“I think, overall, it helped with my confidence level and not being tired, but you don’t get to practice as many strokes in a match like that,” she said.
Oakwood coach K.C. Weaver has seen McCloskey’s confidence increase all season.
“Lily knew this was a good player and she showed today that she can play against anyone,” Weaver said.
While McCloskey is the only Oakwood state qualifier, the Jills were much improved this season with four district qualifiers after a 2016 season in which they had none.
Sneak attack: Porter was able to fly under the radar and that suited the senior just fine.
“People didn’t know who I was and most of them had never even heard of Madison,” Porter said, smiling.
The Madison No. 1 singles player made a name for herself and her school as she became the first tennis player in school history to qualify to the state tournament. Porter finished fourth at the D-II district tournament in singles after falling to Indian Hill’s Samantha Pregel, 6-2, 7-6 (8-6) in the third-place match.
“Most people probably didn’t expect me to go to state, actually I didn’t expect it,” she said. “But I’ve worked really hard.”
The record-setting performance will merit some big-time attention next week as there will be a parade in her honor at the school and a spirit bus to bring fans to the state tournament.
“I definitely feel special,” she said.
State tournament: The OHSAA girls state tennis tournament starts Friday at the Lindner Family Tennis Center with the first two rounds. Semifinals and finals for both divisions will be played Saturday. For draws and tournament information, visit www.ohsaa.org.