By Dan Gilles
Westlake senior Lauren Golick, after placing third at the Division I State Girls Tennis Tournament as a sophomore and fourth as a junior, has one specific goal in mind – to get back to state and win a championship.
Golick will go in as a district champion for the third-straight season after winning the Division I Northeast District Tournament at the Don Hunsinger Tennis Courts at Oberlin College last weekend with a 4-0 performance over the two-day event.
Golick cemented her fourth-straight berth in the state tournament, which will be held this Friday and Saturday at Ohio State, with her third-straight district gold medal.
On Saturday, she defeated Walsh Jesuit’s Katelyn Hissong, 6-2, 6-1, in the semifinals before beating Massillon Jackson’s Tessa Hill, 6-1, 6-0, in the championship match.
“No, it never gets old,” said Golick, who placed third and fourth, respectively, in her last two state appearances. “When you get to districts, the play goes up a notch and the level of talent improves. So, to play my best through the whole tournament was really good. It’s my senior year, so I’m looking forward to having fun and doing the best I can down at state.”
Golick will be joined by Magnificat junior Emily Witt in representing the area at Division I State Tournament. The top six district finishers at singles and doubles qualified for state.
Golick, a two-time defending state placer, punched her ticket to her fourth-consecutive state tournament berth with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Walsh Jesuit’s Emily Hissong and a 6-4, 6-2 win over Canfield’s Allison Pavlansky last Thursday.
“I played really well, especially when you consider the cold and windy conditions (Thursday) morning,” said Golick, who rallied from a 4-3 first-set deficit to win her quarterfinal match. “I struggled a little bit at the beginning, but I was able to pull it off.
“When you’re playing outside, you have to deal with the wind and the sun, but the other player has to as well. It comes down to who will adjust quicker. Luckily, I was able to adjust by the middle of that set and play well for the rest of the match.”
The Cleveland State recruit made quick work of Katelyn Hissong and Hill in Saturday’s matches.
“I think a state championship is always the ultimate goal,” Golick said. “It’s my senior year and I just want to have fun and play my best tennis. Hopefully, it goes my way.”
Westlake coach Ralph Dunbar was proud of Golick’s performance.
“I’m gonna miss her next year,” he said. “That’s the No. 1 thing. No. 2, I’m just happy for her. I told her that this year we’d lighten the schedule a little bit in some ways just so she’d have some more time to prepare and have the best shot she can for her last year going to state.
“She’s worked hard at her game, and it shows on the tennis court. That’s where some of the changes she and her (offseason) coach made in her game from last year to this year made a big difference. Sometimes, I think players rest on their laurels from year to year. But, that’s not Lauren.”
Witt’s first day at districts didn’t begin so well.
After winning her first set in her first-round match against Green’s Danielle Beyes, Witt went back for a long ball and rolled her right ankle.
Already playing with a brace on her left ankle after suffering a similar injury earlier in the year, Witt got the right ankle taped up and gritted her way to comeback wins in both of her matches Thursday morning, punching her ticket to state for the second-consecutive year.
Witt advanced Thursday with a 6-2, 7-6 (7-1) first round win over Beyes and a 2-6, 7-6 (9-7), 7-5 marathon win over top-seeded Ali Garrity of Medina in the quarterfinals.
“It was a crazy day,” said Witt on Thursday. “My ankle hurts, but it feels a lot better taped. You have to fight through it. I didn’t want to use that as an excuse.
“I had hurt my left ankle earlier in the season, and I was scared when it first happened. Luckily, I could walk on it, and we got it taped and I was able to finish out the day.”
Witt came back Saturday with a 6-2, 6-1 loss to Hill, the Canton Sectional champion, and then fell to Hissong, 6-4, 6-2, in the third-place match.
Witt, who was the district runner-up last season, said she wasn’t using her 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 (Saturday), and it just didn’t go my way.”
After spraining her ankle, Witt quickly fell behind to Beyes, 5-0, in the second set. However, she rallied for six unanswered games to take control and then dominated the tiebreaker to set up her match with Garrity.
“My ankle was tight and I was making a lot of errors,” Witt said. “I came back and I was able to win it in a tiebreaker, so that gave me a confidence boost.”
After getting some ice on the ankle, Witt was dominated by Garrity, a defending state qualifier and the Medina Sectional champion, in the first set. She trailed, 6-5, in the second set before forcing a tiebreaker that went back-and-forth.
It wasn’t until Witt’s winning point to make it a 9-7 victory that one of the girls had a two-point lead in that tiebreaker set.
Witt used that momentum to jump out to a 4-1 lead in the third-and-deciding set before Garrity found her second-wind.
Garrity reeled off four consecutive victories to once again put her one game away from victory. However, the resilient Witt earned three straight wins to come away with the win in arguably the best match of the tournament so far.
“I knew that (Garrity) was the No. 1 seed and that she was really tough,” Witt said. “I had never played her until today. She just crushed me in that first set. I just had to change my strategy, because I knew if I lost, I’d have to come back Saturday needing to win against some tough competition just to get to state.
“I wanted to get the win (Thursday) so I wouldn’t have to sleep on it.”
Magnificat coach Chris Johnson praised Witt’s toughness throughout the tournament.
“I thought Emily got off to a bit of a slow start in her (semifinal) match,” he said. “It was cold (Saturday) 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.”
Patrick and Johnson, making their district debuts after winning the Oberlin Sectional championship, rallied from a first set loss to eliminate Canton’s Leah Shaheen-Kalyn Schirack, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, in the first round.
“We just wanted it so badly, and we were disappointed in our first set,” said Patrick of that first-round match. “But, we knew there was a lot of tennis left.”
However, they were denied a berth in the semifinals with a 6-1, 6-2 quarterfinal loss to Mayfield’s Mitsuki Fukamachi-Jamie Vizelman. Fukamachi and Vizelman were the runners-up at the Solon Sectional and wound up being the district runners-up as well.
They came back Saturday morning to take Walsh Jesuit’s Anne-Marie Kurtz and Gina Costanzo to a third set. However, they fell short in their quest for a state berth, losing 7-5, 3-6, 6-3.
“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.”
Added Johnson: “We got here, and that’s all that matters. I’m so proud of what we did this season. Just getting to districts was an accomplishment, and to go to a third-set in a state qualifying match is amazing in itself.”
Coach Johnson was proud of his seniors for the run they made.
“Once again, 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.”
Westlake’s Julia Dunbar and Magnificat’s Lauren O’Malley were eliminated in the first round, as was Westlake’s doubles team of Lindsey Golick-Melissa Djohan and Magnificat’s other doubles team of Josie Miller-Katie McCabe.
Dunbar, a junior who qualified for the state tournament last season as a doubles player, was beaten by Hill, 6-2, 6-4, in the first round.
Djohan and Golick, who finished second at the Oberlin Sectional, were eliminated by Canfield’s Paige Zwicker-Stephanie Carrocce, 6-0, 6-4. Zwicker and Carrocce were eliminated in the consolation semifinals by Hudson’s Grace Lu and Natalie Arcoria.
“They played really well, though,” Lauren Golick said. “Their seasons were amazing, and they should be really proud of themselves.”
Miller and McCabe, both seniors, were beaten by Lu and Arcoria, 6-1, 6-3. Lu and Arcoria were the champions of the Medina Sectional.
O’Malley, a sophomore who was unseeded at the Oberlin Sectional but wound up finishing third, lost a tough match to Katelyn Hissong in the first round, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.