High School tennis: ‘Chemistry’ key as Elks doubles team wins sectional

Familiarity and friendship paid off for Centerville’s Clara Owen and Caroline Hinshaw.

While they are first-year high school teammates – Owen is a freshman and Hinshaw is a sophomore transfer student – they shared a court in USTA matches before either of them suited up for the Elks. After a season splitting duties at first and second singles, they reunited as doubles partners and claimed the Division I sectional title with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Bellbrook’s Maya Brink and Nitika Arora at Centerville High School on Wednesday.

The top-seeded Elks duo dropped only two games the entire tournament, shutting out their opponents, 6-0, 6-0, in the three previous rounds.

“We have a lot of chemistry together,” Hinshaw said. “We can pick each other up and calm each other down when we need to.”

“We know each other’s game,” Owen said.

Centerville coach Scott Long attributes their doubles success to commitment and camaraderie.

“They practice at it so much and they’re good friends,” he said. “They know where each other is going to be on the court.”

The Centerville teammates were quick to point out each other’s strengths.

“Her volleys are so good,” Hinshaw said of Owen.

“Her groundstrokes are amazing,” Owen said of Hinshaw.

Claiming a top seed for the Southwest District Tournament will be helpful as the Elks duo continues to work on checking off items on their season wish list.

“Our big goal is to finish in the top four at state,” Owen said.

The Southwest District Tournament, both D-I and D-II, gets underway Oct. 15 at the ATP Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.

* D-II Doubles: For Oakwood’s Sarah Hall and Natalie Connelly, being on the court has been a much-needed dose of normalcy in a year that has been anything but normal.

“With half days of school, having tennis gives us a sense of routine,” Connelly said. “We’ll be on the court no matter what.”

Hall and Connelly will be able to enjoy that precious court time a bit longer as the Jills duo earned the D-II sectional doubles title on Wednesday with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Eaton’s Sophie and Grace Murphy, earning a coveted top seed for the District tournament.

“I told Natalie I wanted the No. 1 seed,” Hall said, smiling. “It definitely has a confidence factor that goes with it.”

Hall, a junior, and Connelly, a senior, have known each other since they were 4 and 5 years old, respectively, but only recently paired up for a post-season run.

“They’ve only played a couple of matches together but they really complement each other,” Oakwood coach Kim Gilbert said. “With COVID it’s been a crazy season but I’m really happy for them.”

* Sectional singles: It’s two in a row for Eaton’s Macy Hitchcock as the Eagles sophomore clinched her second D-II sectional singles crown in as many years with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Oakwood senior Lily McCloskey. Hitchcock is hoping to make another state run after falling in the first round last year.

Claire Burns, of Wilmington, won the D-I sectional title by beating Centerville junior Arabelle MacPherson, 6-1, 6-0, in the title match.

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