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The big stage has arrived.

After a long season of training, hard work and ups and downs, the state tournament has arrived for girls tennis in Division II with Napoleon senior Aliza Lankenau as the last remaining area athlete left as the Wildcat star qualified for state for the third time.

“The atmosphere is going to be great. The state does a great job of highlighting the girls that made it this far, making them feel really special,” praised Napoleon head coach Nathan Butler. “Because it is a great accomplishment to do this. It’s something that some girls get to do maybe once, and they try to make it something because they know how special it is to do this. They do an outstanding job at that and I think that Aliza is definitely taking it in as a very special moment that she’s able to accomplish this and to be able to go back again is a big thing for her.”

“I’m really happy that I made it back and relieved that I could fulfill the three-time goal that I had for myself, so it feels pretty great,” noted Lankenau.

The Lady Wildcats senior, after placing fourth at districts last week, will be playing senior Carly Cohen from Gates Mills Gilmour Academy, who won the Northeast District.

“She won her districts and has some really good players in her districts,” stated Butler about Lankenau’s first round opponent. “Knowing that, she’s going to be a good player, but at this point, I would consider all the girls that are here really good players. I think she’ll just have to have a clear mind going into it and just be confident in what she’s been able to do this year and just go out there and work really hard to string some points together and win some games.”

Lankenau lost to Ava McQuillen of Toledo Central Catholic in the third place match of the district championship tournament last week. Cohen defeated Riley Hanford of Chesterland West Geauga for the Northeast District championship last week, 6-3, 6-1.

“I know that all the seedings depend on how good your district is and our district is pretty strong,” expressed Lankenau. “So even with myself being a four seed, I know that any one seed can be as good as me because it all depends on how strong your district is.”

The winner will advance to the second round with a potential match against the winner between senior Sylvia Gray of Chillicothe Unioto and junior Bella Kirby of Cincinnati Indian Hill.

It will by no means be easy, but Lankenau has experience playing top talent. Between being in the very tough Northern Lakes League and a gritty sectional in which three of four district qualifiers qualified for state, she has played some of the toughest tennis players in the state all year.

The state tournament will take place at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason on Friday and Saturday. Play will begin at 9 a.m. with both Division I and Division II singles. Lankenau already has some experience with the venue, being a two-time state placer already.

“She definitely has an idea and the mindset of what she needs to do. The big thing about this weekend is just getting the opportunity,” added Butler. “Not really knowing your opponent can be an advantage and a disadvantage, it’s how well you adjust.”

Admission will be $10 per person and only cash will be accepted.

In case of inclement weather all day on Friday, play will be moved to South Regency Tennis and Fitness Center in Miamisburg. If inclement weather occurs after play has started, it will get moved to Five Seasons Family Sports Club and The Club at Harper’s Point in Cincinnati. If there is inclement weather on Saturday, play will be at Five Seasons Sports Club.

The winners of the second round match-ups will advance to the state semifinal matches on Saturday with play beginning at 9 a.m.

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