The Bellbrook senior started the day with a 6-2, 6-1 semifinal win over Beavercreek junior Julia Bays. The quick win meant Szep had a lot of time to wait around as she finished her match before the other semifinalists finished their first set.
While Szep was well rested, it was Venkatramani who had the early edge as she led 2-1. But then Szep turned it up a notch, winning the next 11 straight games.
“I think it was nerves early,” Szep said. “But, I think having all of the experience I have playing four years of high school tennis really helped me.”
More than a decade on the court has helped Szep’s mental as well as physical game.
“When I was a freshman, I was crying all over the place, I was a mess,” Szep said with a smile. “Now, tennis is a way for me to relax. I just hit the ball as hard as I can.”
While the 17-year-old was thrilled with the win and a sectional crown, there were definitely mixed emotions for the Bellbrook senior.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” she said. “It’s the last time I will ever play in the sectional and the district.”
And, perhaps, both the first and last time she will play in the state tournament.
“I’ve been one match away every year,” Szep said. “I guess we’ll see.”
Doubles: The Elks doubles and singles players, alike, found success in the sectional doubles competition. Centerville first and second singles players Sydney Khosla and Ariel Alappatt won the D-I sectional doubles title Saturday while the Elks first doubles team of Madeline Mills and Arianna Carfora placed fourth. Both teams advanced to the district tournament.
While both the Centerville doubles teams were seeded, their opponents were not. Springboro’s Katelyn Mazurek and Alyssa McGarvey placed second while teammates Emily Rives and Kiley Preston finished third. Neither of the Panthers doubles teams was seeded as both posted upsets.
Oakwood dominates D-II: The Jills made history at the Division II sectional tournament as all seven of the Oakwood players qualified to the district tournament including a pair of sectional champions – Lily McCloskey, singles, and Sophia Russell and Natalie Connelly, doubles.
“We’ve never sent all seven to the district,” Oakwood coach Kim Gilbert said. “I can’t tell you how elated I was when Katie (Ritschel) won that first match.”
The unseeded Oakwood sophomore defeated fourth-seeded Ashley Vosler, of Alter, 6-1, 6-3, in the opening round, improving the chances of the entire Jills team moving on.
“It’s not easy being third singles,” Gilbert said. “She played great.”
It’s also not easy playing your teammates for the title, but that’s what all of the Oakwood players had to do on Saturday.
“I think it’s the most difficult part of the game – playing your friends or teammates,” Gilbert said. “Being excited about a point can come across negatively to a teammate.”
Eventual singles champion McCloskey had to play not one, but two, of her teammates Saturday. The Oakwood sophomore topped Ritschel, 6-0, 6-0, in the semifinals and second-seeded Sarah Hall, 6-1, 6-1, in the final.
“It’s hard because we’re all friends and we want each other to do well, but when you’re on the court, you play to win,” McCloskey said
McCloskey, who earned a second straight sectional title, has done quite a bit of winning as she is 20-1 on the season with only a loss to Indian Hill. She advanced to the state tournament last year.
“I’m just going to try my best and see how far I can get,” she said.