OBERLIN — Magnificat senior tennis player Emily Witt had to take the road less traveled to get where she wanted to go: next week’s state tournament in Columbus.
The Grafton resident not only picked up the win she needed in Saturday’s Division I district consolation semifinals, but also outlasted Mayfield’s Jamie Vizelman in the fifth-place match for good measure at Oberlin College.
Area players joining Witt at state will be teammate Lauren O’Malley, a Westlake native who finished fourth at singles, and the Westlake High doubles team of senior Julia Dunbar and sophomore Lyndsey Golick, which also finished fourth.
Witt, Lorain County’s only state qualifier for the third straight year, qualified to Columbus with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Kenston’s Tasha Birze, the Solon sectional champion and the lone top seed in singles to not land one of the six qualifying spots.
In the final match of the entire tournament, Witt rallied back from a tough first set to outlast Vizelman 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 and claim fifth. It was her lowest finish ever at districts, but Witt wasn’t complaining.
“It was a good day today,” Witt said. “I definitely had to win the first match, and I was happy to get that done. But it was good to end the day with another win and go out on a high note.”
Witt finished second at districts as a sophomore and overcame a high-ankle sprain as a junior to finish fourth. She’s hoping to at least finish in the top four, if not higher, at state.
“This is the first time I’ve had a teammate go down to Columbus with me, and it’s great that it’s Lauren.” Witt said. “It should be fun having some company down there this year and hopefully we both do well.”
Avon Lake senior Erin Hrivnak came one match shy of joining Witt, falling 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 to Vizelman in the consolation semifinals.
“I always try to give it my best each time out,” Hrivnak said. “It was a really tough match. I grew up playing in tournaments with (Vizelman), just like half of the girls here. If it had to end, it was a good way to end it.”
Hrivnak was sent to the consolation bracket by Walsh Jesuit freshman Molly Sandberg on Thursday with a 6-4, 6-2 loss. Sandberg won the district championship with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Cloverleaf freshman Emily Dunbar.
“That first set of tennis (against Vizelman) was the most brilliant set of tennis I’ve ever seen Erin play in the three years I’ve coached her,” Avon Lake coach Christine Dieken said. “She’s just had a great four years. She’s reached the qualifying round at districts twice in four years, which is phenomenal. Finishing third at the sectional this year, in one of the toughest sectionals around, is a testament to how well she’s played all season.”
O’Malley, who came in as the Oberlin sectional champ and qualified for state Thursday, lost to Sandberg 6-1, 6-4 in the semifinals and 6-3, 6-4 to Massillon Jackson’s Tessa Hill in the third-place match.
“Going to state is something you always strive for, so it should be fun,” O’Malley said. “This was good because I had never won a match here before this year, so to make it as far as I did this year was exciting.”
Magnificat coach Chris Johnson was happy for his top two singles players.
“I think it’s huge, especially for Lauren,” he said. “Districts are such a daunting task, especially when you’ve never qualified for state before. It really helped her coming out as a No. 1 seed and getting that draw here. She is 25-4 now, counting those two losses today, so she’s very consistent.”
Golick and Dunbar also qualified Thursday, but, like O’Malley, had a rough go of it Saturday.
North Canton Hoover’s Natalie and Nicolette Bourlas handed them a 6-2, 6-2 loss in the semifinals and Canfield’s Hannah Cianciola and Ashley Kallel beat them 7-5, 6-3 in the third-place match.
“I’m happy to go back down to states, and I’m sure Lyndsey is ecstatic to go for the first time,” Dunbar said. “Obviously, our finish today wasn’t what we wanted. I thought we had some off moments at times. But both of our opponents also played very well.”
Added Golick: “It was definitely a close match (for third). Everyone was in every point and they just converted better so they could get the points they needed.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Division I Oberlin District
(Top 6 finishers advance to state)
SINGLES: Championship — Molly Sandberg (Walsh Jesuit) def. Emily Dunbar (Cloverleaf), 6-2, 6-2. Third-place — Tessa Hill (Massillon Jackson) def. Lauren O’Malley (Magnificat), 6-3, 6-4. Fifth place —Emily Witt (Magnificat) def. Jamie Vizelman (Mayfield), 2-6, 6-4, 6-1. Semifinals — Dunbar def. Hill, 6-2, 6-4; Sandberg def. O’Malley, 6-1, 6-4. Consolation semifinals — Witt def. Tasha Birze (Kenston), 6-1, 6-2; Vizelman def. Erin Hrivnak (Avon Lake), 7-6 (7-3), 6-2.
DOUBLES: Championship — Abby Warburton-Alivia Arnold (North Canton Hoover) def. Natalie Bourlas-Nicolette Bourlas (North Canton Hoover), 7-5, 6-4. Third place — Hannah Cianciola-Ashley Kallel (Canfield) def. Lyndsey Golick-Julia Dunbar (Westlake), 7-5, 6-3. Fifth place — Emily Hissong-Gina Costanzo (Walsh Jesuit) def. Alex Riegelsberger-Lucy Grierson (Rocky River), 6-2, 6-1. Semifinals — Warburton-Arnold def. Cianciola-Kallel, 6-3, 6-4; Bourlas-Bourlas def. Golick-Dunbar, 6-2, 6-2. Consolation semifinals — Riegelsberger-Grierson def. Tinisee Kandakai-Monika Bandi (Solon), 7-6
(10-8), 7-5; Hissong-Costanzo def. Paige Carmichael-Caroline Dickinson (Walsh Jesuit), 6-2, 6-3.