By Ryan Kaczmarski
Westlake High School senior Lauren Golick saw her high school tennis career come to an end on Oct. 20, but what a career it has been. Golick was a four-time state qualifier in first-singles, and this year all of her hard work culminated with the Division I state championship.
After finishing third in the state in her sophomore year and fourth in the state last season, Golick definitely feels great to get over the hump and grab that elusive state championship.
“The last few years I got progressively closer, and I always felt that I was right there in the running,” she said. “So I am very happy that I was able to finally take the championship my senior year! I do think that I am the first female tennis state champion (at Westlake High School).
“Last year, Colton Buffington, from Westlake, won the boys Division I state tennis championship as well. I don’t know if any other school has ever won the boys and girls titles back to back before.”
According to Westlake head girls tennis coach Ralph Dunbar, there are a multitude of reasons that propelled Golick to the top this season.
“A lot of it had to do with Lauren’s determination,” he said. “Another big factor was her (club) coach, Eric Hodge – who’s been her coach since she was 9 years old – and each year, he really progressed her, through her teens, and he added a whole new level of play into what Lauren needed to do to push through and be state champion this year.”
Golick did not put stress on herself this season, knowing it was her final try at the state championship.
“With it being my senior year, I was really just focused on having fun and enjoying my time on court,” she said. “I knew I had prepared really well with my coach, Eric Hodge, and I felt like I had made significant strides with my mental game as well as strategy development. Winning a state championship is always the ultimate goal, and obviously that was what I was working towards all four years of high school.
“I think my game has just been the product of four years of growing, both physically and mentally,” Golick added. “I’ve gotten stronger and more physically fit, but I’ve also worked extremely hard with game plans and shot selection, which is vital in tennis. In tennis, experience is almost always the determining factor, along with tenacity and the ability to win when you’re maybe not playing your best.”
Golick will stayg in Northeast Ohio this fall, electing to attend Cleveland State University. She will play both singles and doubles tennis for the Vikings.
“I am very excited to be playing for CSU next fall,” she said. “I am always eager to improve my game, and in college I will be able to compete against very talented players on a regular basis. I am excited to join the great group of girls and coaches they have and to be able to contribute my game to the program.”
“I think her overall skills, her mental toughness and her court presence is continuing to grow,” Dunbar said. “The one area of her game that she’ll need to address and work on is her doubles game – she’ll still be playing singles – which she’ll work on in the offseason.”
Having two Division I state champions in a single calendar year should prove to pay large dividends for the tennis programs at Westlake High School.
“Westlake is a great school system to play for because of the endless encouragement and support that athletes receive from the administrators and staff,” Golick stated. “I don’t think that any other schools have won back-to-back tennis championships in girls and boys tennis, so for one public school to achieve that is a great feat.”
The Demons’ girls program will still have a Golick on the roster for the next few years with Lauren’s younger sister Lindsey, who had a phenomenal freshman season this year.
“Lindsey had a great freshman season,” Golick said. “She is always eager to improve and is a very hard worker. She definitely has the talent and desire to go all the way, and she has been my best supporter and encourager ever since I started playing tennis. I have tried to help her with her game and give her little tips or ideas, and I have no doubt that she can do whatever she sets her mind to do.”
Finally, Golick knows that she could not have achieved the state championship alone; she needed coaching and the support of family, friends and peers.
“I am very grateful for everyone who has helped and supported me over the years,” she said. “My parents and sister have been through a lot of traveling and long days when I’m playing in tournaments, and they have always encouraged me and helped me get through hard times. All of my grandparents and aunts and uncles and neighbors and friends have always been there for me as well, whether it is offering words of encouragement or cheering for me at my matches. And my high school coach, Coach Dunbar, has never failed to show up to a practice or match without a smile, and his coaching is insightful, but he has always known what I need to hear in order to play my best.
“My private coach, Eric Hodge, has been with me ever since I started at age 10,” she added. “He’s spent countless hours with me, patiently explaining strategies and never letting me settle for anything less than I am capable of. His guidance and encouragement are something I could never have gotten from anyone else, and I cannot thank him enough for all he has done. There are so many others who have always been there for me as well, and I am so appreciative of everything people have done in order for me to be able to be successful.”