OBERLIN — Thursday was a heart-stopping performance by Magnificat junior and Grafton resident Emily Witt, who overcame a sprained ankle to win two big matches and punch her ticket to the Division I state tournament for the second year in a row.
Her encore performance Saturday morning at the Division I Northeast District girls tennis tournament at the Don Hunsinger Tennis Courts at Oberlin College wasn’t as dramatic.
Witt, who came in as the defending district runner-up, was beaten in both of her matches and will go into this weekend’s state tourney as a fourth-place district finisher.
Witt lost to Massillon Jackson’s Tessa Hill, the Canton sectional champion, 6-2, 6-1, in the semifinals.
Despite a better showing in the third-place match, Witt fell to Walsh Jesuit senior and three-time state qualifier Katelyn Hissong, 6-4, 6-2.
Witt didn’t use the ankle injury as an excuse.
“I was hoping for a better finish,” she said. “I’ve been icing it and resting it up so it felt better today. I just played my hardest Thursday and I had some tough competition today, and it just didn’t go my way.”
Saturday wound up not being a good overall day for the Magnificat contingent.
Avon Lake resident and senior Sarah Patrick, along with partner and fellow senior Veronica Johnson, pushed Walsh Jesuit’s Anne-Marie Kurtz and Gina Costanzo to a third set in their consolation semifinal.
However, Kurtz and Costanzo rallied to eliminate Patrick and Johnson one match short of a state berth with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 victory. The Walsh duo wound up finishing fifth.
Patrick and Johnson, making their postseason debuts, came into the district tournament having won the Oberlin sectional title last weekend. However, they were sent to the consolation bracket by eventual district runners-up Mitsuki Fukamachi and Jamie Vizelman of Mayfield on Thursday, putting them in an all-or-nothing matchup Saturday morning.
“I think we came a lot closer than we thought we would,” Patrick said. “That was a really tough match. Winning the second set was big. But not only getting to this point, but getting that match to three sets was a great accomplishment.
“We had a really great season. I’m really proud of us for what we did. We honestly never thought we would get this far, so to lose in three sets is a pretty big accomplishment, I think.”
Magnificat coach Chris Johnson was proud of how his seniors played at the district level.
“They lost pretty handily to that same duo a few weeks ago when we played Walsh,” he said. “For them to come back and be in position to win was a great accomplishment. I thought they played with a lot of heart and a lot of guts, and they just came up a little short against two superior opponents.”
Witt qualified for the semifinals with a 2-6, 7-6 (9-7), 7-5 thrilling win over Medina’s Ali Garrity Thursday. Garrity, who came in as one of the top-seeded players at the district, wound up qualifying for state, but finished a disappointing sixth.
Witt couldn’t keep the magic going against Hill, who wound up losing to three-time district champion Lauren Golick of Westlake, 6-1, 6-0, in the finals, or Hissong on Saturday.
“I knew what (Hissong’s) game is, so I tried switch up my gameplan,” Witt said. “I wanted to find a way to do my best against her. She’s a good player.”
Hissong, who defeated Witt earlier this year, said the score didn’t indicate how close and competitive their two matches were.
“Last time we played, it did look like I beat her easier, but there were a lot of 30-40-deuce games,” said Hissong, who finished third at districts last year and became a three-time state qualifier. “It was just as close. She’s a great player, and the scores don’t really do that justice.”
Johnson saw some positives from Witt’s performance.
“I thought Emily got off to a bit of a slow start in her first match,” he said. “It was cold this morning, and she’ll say her ankle wasn’t bothering her, but I’m sure it was a little bit. And when she did get warmed up, so did (Hill). She just ran into a fantastic opponent in that semifinal. What a great athlete she is, and she played an almost flawless match.
“I’m not disappointed in that, because she was a bit overmatched there. And, she played Hissong a lot tougher than she had earlier in the season. As coach, what you want to see is progress. The effort was there, and I thought she hit the ball really clean. We just need to work on some tactical things to get better for next week.”
For the second-straight year, Witt will be the lone Lorain County representative at the state tournament, which will be held Friday and Saturday at The Ohio State University.
“I’m excited for Columbus,” Witt said. “I’m really looking forward to playing there. This gave me a lot of good matches and really prepared me for the competition down there.
“I lost my first match at state last year, so hopefully I can win at least one match this year. My goal is just do my best.”
Johnson believes there’s a chance Witt could make some noise at state.
“Obviously, we’d like her to win at least that first match,” he said. “If she wins, she’ll likely play a No. 1 from one of the other districts. That’s tough, but it also depends on which district it is. So, you never know. You’ve just got to put yourself in position for the upset.
“I know she’ll be working hard this week. If she does that, I think she’ll at least win a round, if not get to the second day.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Division I Northeast District
At Oberlin College
SINGLES — Championship: Lauren Golick (Westlake) def. Tessa Hill (Massillon Jackson), 6-1, 6-0. Third-Place: Katelyn Hissong (Walsh Jesuit) def. Emily Witt (Magnificat), 6-4, 6-2. Fifth-Place: Allison Pavlansky (Canfield) def. Ali Garrity (Medina), 6-2, 0-6, 6-2. Semifinals: Hill def. Witt, 6-2, 6-1; Golick def. Hissong, 6-2, 6-1. Consolation Semifinals: Garrity def. Kati Mdzinarishvili (Hudson), 7-5, 6-0; Pavlansky def. Katherine McCauley (Uniontown Lake), 0-6, 6-1, 6-2. State Qualifiers: 1. Golick, 2. Hill, 3. Hissong, 4. Witt, 5. Pavlansky, 6. Garrity.
DOUBLES — Championship: Amanda Marchant-Natasha Birze (Kenston) def. Mitsuki Fukamachi-Jamie Vizelman (Mayfield), 7-5, 6-2. Third-Place: Lauren Daugherty-Alivia Arnold (North Canton Hoover) def. Natalie Bourlas-Nicolette Bourlas (North Canton Hoover), 6-4, 6-2. Fifth-Place: Anne-Marie Kurtz-Gina Costanzo (Walsh Jesuit) def. Grace Lu-Natalie Arcoria (Hudson), 6-3, 6-4. Semifinals: Marchant-Birze def. Daugherty-Arnold, 6-0, 7-5; Fukamachi-Vizelman def. Bourlas-Bourlas, 6-4, 6-0. Consolation Semifinals: Lu-Arcoria def. Paige Zwicker-Stephanie Carrocce (Canfield), 6-3, 4-6, 6-2; Kurtz-Costanzo def. Sarah Patrick-Veronica Johnson (Magnificat), 7-5, 3-6, 6-3. State Qualifiers: 1. Marchant-Birze, 2. Fukamachi-Vizelman, 3. Daugherty-Arnold, 4. Bourlas-Bourlas, 5. Kurtz-Costanzo, 6. Lu-Arcoria.