The big stage is just one step away for girls tennis players across the state as the district tournament begins on Wednesday.
The Division II districts will take place at Keefe Courts at Bowling Green State University at 10 a.m.
“It’s down to the top 16 players in the district now, bidding for the four spots to move on to state,” stated Napoleon head coach Nathan Butler. “Every girl at this point has given it their all, especially when it comes to the upperclassmen. They’ve got one more shot at it, you could say, so that’s a thing you’ve got to look at when they’re playing and how they’re going to be perceiving these matches as. I think that’s one thing that Aliza has that’s driving her. It’s her senior year, and she knows that it’s not going to be easy, but she’s ready to go for it and try to do everything she can to have another chance to go back.”
In the singles part of the districts, only Napoleon senior Aliza Lankenau remains, as the the two-time state placer won her third-place match over Lorelei Huber of Ottawa Hills in the sectional tournament last week. Lankenau plays junior Jayla Medina of Milan Edison, who placed second at the Shelby sectionals last week.
If Lankenau wins the match, then she would advance to the second round and a match with the winner between UNOH Sectional champ Kunmie Ojo of Lima Shawnee and Emma Trost from Norwalk, who nabbed the fourth and final qualifying spot from the Port Clinton sectionals.
“I think the biggest thing for her is going to be coming out strong, minimize the mistakes and get a flow of what the game is going to bring to her,” said Butler about Lankenau. “Every player has a different vantage point of how they’re going to take on a match, and I think that’s going to be a big step for her when it comes to getting a good start. If she gets out there and plays really patient and gets a few games under her belt, I think it will put a lot of pressure on the other girls in order to stay in a match. In the same sense, if the other girl comes out strong, she’s got to be able to make sure she keeps the focus on, ‘Hey, I can lose games, it’s not a sprint to get to six games.’ If it takes a little time to get into the flow of things and figure out how she’s going to play, then she can take her time and do that. Then once she got her groove going, she can get games and she can get back into anything.”
After the second round of the first day, the winners would advance to the district semifinals and finals matches, which would get played on Saturday at Port Clinton High School at 10 a.m.
In the doubles part of the districts, there are two area duos that reached the district tournament. Andy and Emma Schmiedebusch of Ottawa-Glandorf finished fourth in the UNOH Sectional to qualify and Bryan’s Emilee Bassett and Kaitlynn Posey finished fourth in the Ottawa Hills Sectional last week for a district appearance.
The Schmiedebusch duo will play the Ottawa Hills Sectional-winning pair of Bella and Lucia Spinazze of Toledo Central Catholic. The winner of the first round match will advance to play the winner between Mara Berry and Alexa Moore of Norwalk and Kaylee Ries and Torri Keyser of Milan Edison.
The sophomore duo of Bassett and Posey will play Ruby and Esther Bolen of Lima Bath, who won the UNOH Sectional last week. The winner will move on to play the winner between Becca Slone and Kallie Sowers of Willard and Nathalie Cziesla and Emma Strudthoff of Clyde.
“I think that’s going to be a big positive thing for her,” concluded Butler about the familiarization of the players at the districts for Lankenau. “She knows a few of the girls, she’s played in the last couple years with most of them that are returning to the district, even from our sectional. Our sectional is a very strong sectional when it comes to tennis, we have some of the top schools from the area playing in our sectional. With 12 teams in there and getting the four seeded girls out as they went in, says a lot about the sectional. Now it’s just showing up in the next round and getting that opportunity to play in those final matches to get seeded for state.”