AVON LAKE — On the surface, Westlake’s 4-1 Southwestern Conference girls tennis victory over Avon Lake on Monday looks dominant. When you factor in that the Shoregals’ only win came because one of the Demons — second singles player Melissa Djohan — failed to show up to the event, it appeared even more lopsided.
But a closer look at the individual results shows that Avon Lake (1-4, 1-2) gave Westlake (3-1, 2-0) a very tough match from beginning to end.
“It was a good win for the girls,” Westlake coach Ralph Dunbar said. “They showed a lot of character and came through. When we came to the courts today and we’re already down one court and the girls don’t know where one of their teammates were — we still don’t know what’s going on — I think that sort of threw them for a loop.
“In conjunction with that, we had to play some girls in positions we normally don’t play them. I think, for them today, it was a good steppingstone to move forward for the next few matches we have on our schedule — North Canton Hoover (today), Magnificat (Wednesday) and Berea-Midpark (Thursday).”
Two of the toughest matches came at first singles, where Avon Lake senior Erin Hrivnak gave Westlake’s Julia Dunbar all she could handle in a tough 6-3, 1-6, 7-5 loss, and at first doubles, where Westlake’s Lyndsey Golick and Paavani Reddy outlasted Alexis Krieg and Rachel Johnson, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
“I’m absolutely encouraged by how we played,” Avon Lake coach Christine Dieken said. “To be honest, we’ve had the toughest schedule we’ve had in recent years here. It’s been hard on the girls and it can be discouraging playing really tough teams every day. Westlake, obviously, is one of the strongest teams you can play in Ohio.
“They went out there and they were fighting. They were neck-and-neck in virtually every match. I saw our team take it to a whole other level today. This was the best I’ve seen them play all year.”
Dunbar (5-2), moving up to first singles this year after spending the previous three seasons at second singles, jumped out to a commanding 5-0 lead in the first set. But Hrivnak (2-3) won three consecutive games, and used that momentum to dominate the second set. In all, Hrivnak outscored Dunbar, 9-2, during that span.
“I got off to a little bit of a slow start, but I started to come back a little bit and I got in my groove,” Hrivnak said. “She’s a tough player. I can’t wait to see her in two weeks at the SWCs.
“Everybody loves to be underdog, and coming back like that is a great feeling. The whole match definitely gave me a boost and I’m looking forward to SWCs, where it really matters for the title.”
Dunbar won the first game of the decisive third set and opened up a 5-2 lead. Once again, Hrivnak battled back to tie the score at 5, but Dunbar put the match away with two clutch wins.
“It was a tough match – a little closer than I wanted,” Dunbar said. “I think I started to go for it a little too much because I got a little overconfident in myself. She started powering it back and got some momentum. I’m glad I was able to finish off that first set because if I would have let her come back more, it would have made a bigger difference in the outcome.
“I really just started to focus on not what she was doing but what I was doing. I think I was letting myself get too frustrated. One of my problems is I over-think. I’ve been working on that. If this was last year, I probably would have lost this match, to be honest. Hopefully, this shows I’m mentally getting stronger there.”
Coach Dunbar gave Hrivnak credit.
“Erin played her heart out today,” he said. “The big thing with Erin is you’ve always got to stay on your toes. She’s always swinging and going for big shots. A lot of those were landing in today. It was a matter of gutting it out and chasing a couple of balls down, which I think helped Julia come out on top in the end.”
Golick, a district qualifier at doubles last season, moved back there for this match. She and Reddy struggled through the first two sets, coming back from being down 4-3 to win the first set and losing the second set. But they found their groove in the third set to put away Krieg and Johnson.
Coach Dunbar singled out Leah Choban, a freshman who had the easiest win of four Monday. She defeated Lauren Sabo, 6-2, 6-1, at third singles.
“She had been playing primarily doubles this season, and to find out at the last minute you’re playing singles, I think that was good,” Dunbar said. “I think Erin Tanker and Gwynn (Kelleher) really worked well as a team (at second doubles). And I think Julia gutted it out at the end.”
Tanker and Kelleher defeated Kylee Loebick and Maya Wanner, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1.
“Truthfully, any of these courts could have gone either way,” Dieken said. “Our first doubles were fighting in there the whole time. Our first singles was a matter of a point here or there. Our second doubles went to a tiebreaker on the first set. It couldn’t have been closer.
“Against Westlake, we’ll always be the underdog. But we worked on some things before the match that I saw the girls put to use in their matches today, and that made me really happy. I’m just really proud of them.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Westlake 4, Avon Lake 1
SINGLES – Julia Dunbar (Westlake) def. Erin Hrivnak, 6-3, 1-6, 7-5; Amanda Hoffman (Avon Lake) def. Melissa Djohan by default; Leah Choban (Westlake) def. Lauren Sabo, 6-2, 6-1.
DOUBLES – Lyndsey Golick-Paavani Reddy (Westlake) def. Alexis Krieg-Rachel Johnson, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3; Erin Tanker- Gwynn Kelleher (Westlake) def. Kylee Loebick-Maya Wanner, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1.