August 29, 2014

Elyria
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Girls tennis notebook: Success breeding success in area

Success breeds success.
That is the moral that this season’s sectional seeding could tell someone about the area tennis scene.
A year after Lorain County swept the state doubles championships, the two schools that combined for the feat are sending eight athletes into the sectional tournaments with the probability of advancing.
Avon Lake — which saw the sister tandem of Christine and Nikki Chiricosta take down the Division I doubles crown last season — will have Nikki, now a sophomore, entering the Division I tournament at Oberlin College next week as the top singles seed. The Shoregals also have the doubles team of Cassie Simmelink and Jenna Goedde — district qualifiers last year — as the No. 2-seeded team and the doubles team of Kate Began and Molly Clayton as the No. 4 seed.
Elyria Catholic — which saw the pair of Ashley Herrick and Jacqueline Sammon take Division II doubles gold — had North Coast League MVP Becky Mittler earn the No. 2 seed at next weekend’s Division II tournament at Tri-City Park in Rocky River. The Panthers’ doubles team of Emily Mueller and Morgan Baker are the No. 3-seeded team.
Also earning area seeds are Amherst’s Megan Mendoza, the No. 4 seed in Division I, and Bay’s Kelsey Poisson, the No. 3 seed in Division II.
“The whole team was down in Columbus last year, watching Ashley and Jacqueline win the championship,” Panthers coach Terry Butler said. “Every one of those players said, ‘We want to be down here next year,’ and as soon as they got back home they went right to work.
“They’ve seen what the rewards can be.”
Nikki Chiricosta saw them up close. She also watched as her older sister earned three trips to state as a singles player before Nikki was even in high school.
“I got the top seed just like my sister,” Nikki said. “Getting the No. 1 seed is important because you get a better draw. My main goal now is to win the sectional (tournament).”
If that happens, she’s hoping she will have at least four teammates cheering her on during the district tournament. The Shoregals put four players in the tournament last year, and five would be a first for an area program.
“After the success our team had last year, we didn’t think we could do anything this season to top it,” Clayton said. “But getting five players seeded in the sectional gives us hope that we can do something special.”
Shoregals coach Rich Mostardi already believes the success his team has put together over the past few years is special, mainly because it’s the kind of streak you only see from a parochial program.
“To be a public school and have that much, it says a lot,” Mostardi said. “When you get down to state and look at the people there, about 80 percent of the kids are from private schools.
“The most important thing is we have to do something now. It all means nothing if we don’t qualify and get to the next level.”
It’s a level that Simmelink and Goedde are familiar with. After qualifying to districts last season, the pair took a trip to Bradenton, Fla., during the offseason and trained at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy.
“Jenna and I have been working on doubles a lot over the winter,” Simmelink said. “We look up to Christine and Nikki a lot. Our goal is to go and do what they did, hopefully. Right now, just getting to state would be awesome, but I’d definitely look to place if I got there.”
“It was exciting to watch,” Baker said of seeing the Panther duo win a title last year. “Ashley and Jacqueline were big role models for our team and it was really nice being able to support them.
“Hopefully, Emily and I can achieve (a state title) or someone on our team can achieve it again.”
 

Big fan of huge Z
Besides the state championship last season, Nikki Chiricosta has won countless tournaments, matches and has the exuberance of youth to fill her days. Yet it was a chance meeting with Cleveland Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas last Saturday that she puts near the top of her list of life accomplishments.
“That’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me, I’m not going to lie,” Chiricosta said. “I couldn’t stop smiling afterward.”
Chiricosta had just captured the Southwestern Conference first singles championship — dropping just two games in the process — when she spotted Ilgauskas walking his dog along the outside of the Avon Lake baseball diamond’s outfield fence. She and her mom Sheila ran over to meet the 7-foot-3 big man, who graciously took pictures with the young player and signed one of her tennis balls from her SWC title match.
“I have it in my room, and I have the pictures framed and hanging in there, too,” Chiricosta said. “I’ve loved the Cavs since I was a little kid, so that was like a dream come true.”
 

Tourney time
Elyria will take part in the first-ever Northeast Ohio Conference tennis tournament this Saturday at Brush High. The Pioneers are part of the Valley Division in tennis, and will join Brush, Lakewood, Nordonia, Twinsburg and Garfield Heights.
“We went 3-2 during the regular season, but that was without one of our top players (Kristen Foss) who was injured,” Pioneers first-year coach Matt Brinda said. “Now we’re back to full strength and (Foss) has won all her matches since she got injured.”
The seeding meeting begins at 9 a.m., and play will start immediately after.
• The West Shore Conference tournament will take place on the same day at Oberlin College, with the coaches’ meeting at 8 a.m.
“It seems like Rocky River and Bay are always the top competitors,” Vermilion coach Nikki Phillips said. “But the rest of us are pretty good, too. We can be competitive.”
The tournament will include all the WSC teams except Firelands, which doesn’t have a program.
• The Lake Erie League tournament will take place Thursday at Shaker Heights High. The six teams in the league with programs will begin play at 9 a.m.
“Shaker Heights is heads and shoulders above everyone else,” Southview coach Jeff Cera said. “But the middle is going to be close.”
• Avon Lake split the Southwestern Conference tournament title with Brecksville two weekends ago, and Elyria Catholic won its sixth straight North Coast League championship last weekend.
• The Patriot Athletic Conference doesn’t have any member schools that field girls tennis teams.
 The Lake Erie League tournament will take place Thursday at Shaker Heights High. The six teams in the league with programs will begin play at 9 a.m.
“Shaker Heights is heads and shoulders above everyone else,” Southview coach Jeff Cera said. “But the middle is going to be close.”
• Avon Lake split the Southwestern Conference tournament title with Brecksville two weekends ago, and Elyria Catholic won its sixth straight North Coast League championship last weekend.
• The Patriot Athletic Conference doesn’t have any member schools that field girls tennis teams.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Holly Rudisill, Elyria
YEAR: Junior
POSITION: Third/second singles
RECORD: 15-7
THIS WEEK’S PERFORMANCE: Rudisill was the Pioneers’ do-everthing player, winning 11 straight matches. She teamed with Amanda Nielsen to win the second doubles championship at the Erie Shore Conference doubles tournament, won five matches at third singles — her regular spot in the lineup — and then won three more matches at second singles after teammate Kristen Foss went down with an injury and coach Matt Brinda moved Rudisill up a spot.
BIO: Rudisill spends most of her time playing tennis and attending school, but when she gets spare time she enjoys going to the mall and movies with her friends, spending time with her boyfriend Dan and playing with her four golden retrievers. The parents, Ginger and Beau, had a litter of 13 puppies, and Rudisill kept two, Cody and Runty. Rudisill also has a year to decide where, but she says she definitely wants to go to college after she graduates.
PARENTS: Norman and Karen Rudisill.
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or sbennett@chroniclet.com.