OBERLIN — Grafton resident and Magnificat junior Emily Witt’s day at the Division I district girls tennis tournament didn’t begin so well.
After winning her first set in her opening match against Green’s Danielle Beyes, Witt went back for a long ball and rolled her right ankle.
Already playing with a brace on her left ankle after suffering a similar injury earlier in the year, Witt got the right ankle taped up and gritted her way to a pair of wins Thursday morning at Oberlin College, punching her ticket to state for the second straight year.
Witt’s Magnificat teammate Sarah Patrick, an Avon Lake resident, has to play in a doubles consolation match Saturday morning — with partner Veronica Johnson — in order to stay alive for a state berth.
The semifinals and consolation rounds will be Saturday at 9 a.m. The top six singles players and doubles teams will advance to the Division I state tournament, which is next weekend at Ohio State University.
Avon’s doubles team of Annie DeLuca and Madisyn Rini fought gamely, but were eliminated with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 loss to Walsh Jesuit’s Anne-Marie Kurtz and Gina Costanzo in the first round.
But Witt made sure Lorain County would have at least one representative in the state tournament with a 6-2, 7-6 (7-1) first-round win over Beyes and a 2-6, 7-6 (9-7), 7-5 marathon win over top-seeded Ali Garrity of Medina in the quarterfinals.
“It was a crazy day,” Witt said. “My ankle hurts, but it feels a lot better taped. You have to fight through it. I didn’t want to use that as an excuse.
“I had hurt my left ankle earlier in the season, and I was scared when it first happened. Luckily, I could walk on it, and we got it taped and I was able to finish out the day.”
After injuring her ankle, Witt fell behind 5-0 to Beyes in the second set. She then won six straight games to take control and dominated the tiebreaker to advance to the quarterfinals.
“My ankle was tight and I was making a lot of errors,” Witt said. “I came back and I was able to win it in a tiebreaker, so that gave me a confidence boost.”
After getting some ice on the ankle, Witt was dominated by Garrity, a returning state qualifier and the Medina sectional champion, in the first set. She trailed 6-5 in the second set before forcing a tiebreaker that went back and forth.
It wasn’t until Witt won 9-7 that one of the girls had a two-point lead in the tiebreaker.
Witt used the momentum to jump out to a 4-1 lead in the third set, but Garrity found her second wind.
Garrity won four consecutive games to put herself a game away from victory, but Witt won the next three games to come away with the win in arguably the best match of the tournament so far.
“I knew that (Garrity) was the No. 1 seed and that she was really tough,” said Witt, who will play Massillon Jackson’s Tessa Hill, the Canton sectional champion, in Saturday’s semifinals. “I had never played her until today. She just crushed me in that first set. I just had to change my strategy, because I knew if I lost, I’d have to come back Saturday needing to win against some tough competition just to get to state.
“I wanted to get the win (Thursday) so I wouldn’t have to sleep on it. Now I can focus on playing my best tennis (Saturday). Of course, I want to get a good seed, and there will be hard matches. But, win or lose, I don’t have to worry about not making it now.”
On the opposite end of the bracket, Westlake senior Lauren Golick, a two-time state placer, punched her ticket to her fourth consecutive state tournament with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Walsh Jesuit’s Emily Hissong and a 6-4, 6-2 win over Canfield’s Allison Pavlansky.
Golick will meet Emily’s sister Katelyn Hissong in the other semifinal Saturday morning.
“I played really well, especially when you consider the cold and windy conditions this morning,” said Golick, who rallied from a 4-3 first-set deficit to win her quarterfinal. “I struggled a little bit at the beginning, but I was able to pull it off.
“When you’re playing outside, you have to deal with the wind and the sun, but the other player has to as well. It comes down to who will adjust quicker. Luckily, I was able to adjust by the middle of that set and play well for the rest of the match.”
Patrick and Johnson, making their district debuts after winning the Oberlin sectional championship, rallied to eliminate Canton’s Leah Shaheen-Kalyn Schirack, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, in the first round.
But they were denied a semifinal berth after a 6-1, 6-2 loss to Mayfield’s Mitsuki Fukamachi and Jamie Vizelman. Fukamachi and Vizelman were the runners-up at the Solon sectional.
“It’s just as exciting as I thought it would be and I’m glad that we’re still in it,” Patrick said. “I think we’re doing pretty well. We were just happy to win our first round, and I think we’ve got a good chance (on Saturday).”
To punch their tickets to state, Patrick and Johnson will have to defeat the same doubles team that eliminated DeLuca and Rini — Walsh’s Kurtz and Costanzo — in the consolation semifinals.
“We just wanted it so badly, and we were disappointed in our first set,” Patrick said. “But we knew there was a lot of tennis left.”
DeLuca and Rini were happy with their effort in the first round.
“We were a little bit more tentative in that second set, and I think we could have done a lot of things differently,” said DeLuca, a junior. “They got warmed up and they got their game going. They weren’t missing things at the net and they were putting shots away. We weren’t prepared for that, but we still played really, really well.”
Added Rini, a sophomore: “We won the first set because we were being consistent, and we tried to keep that up. It’s been a really fun week preparing for this, and it’s been a blast. It’s disappointing, but we know we gave it our best shot.”
Avon coach Caroline Hughes was proud of her district qualifiers.
“They won the first set in a tight match, but things just changed in the second set,” she said. “It’s tough to win the first set and drop the second and keep up that fight in the third, but overall, they played well.
“They should be proud of themselves. There’s nothing else they could have done. I know they were a little bit nervous this morning, but they knew they had nothing to lose.”
The duo said they would continue to play some USTA doubles matches during the offseason and are open to pair again for next year’s postseason. Rini, however, will likely go back to singles for the regular season.
“They’ve both got next year, so that eases the pressure a little bit,” Hughes said. “Hopefully they can build off this experience and get back here next year and, hopefully, make it to state.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.