MASON – They all had high hopes, but walked away better for having the experience.
Three of the four Greenville girls tennis players competing Thursday at the Division I district championships at the ATP Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason were there for the first time and were excited for the opportunity even though their seasons came to end.
The other – junior Natalie Milligan – qualified for the district tournament for the second straight year. She entered as a No. 2 seed and faced third-seeded Anna Svitkovich of Loveland in the first round. Milligan jumped ahead early taking the first set 6-2 and she took a 3-2 lead in the second set, but that’s when the tables turned. Svitkovich rallied to win the next four games and take the second set 6-3 forcing a winner-take-all third set which Svitkovich was able to win 6-1 ending the season for Milligan.
“It was really close,” Milligan said. “I definitely feel that I played the best that I have all season. It was tough, but I think I kept in there and tried to slow the game down and focus on my shot placement.
“I was happy that I won the first set,” she continued. “She was a good player and I could tell she was nervous in the first set. I’m sure she never played anyone from Greenville before and didn’t know what to expect from me just like I’ve never played anyone from Loveland before and didn’t know what to expect from her. She was getting frustrated, but calmed down eventually and that definitely helped her play better. Of course, I was hoping to win the match, but I still have next year. Hopefully next year I can get a first seed and get an easier match to start with, but I am really happy with how I played today. I think I played my best game throughout the whole match so I’m happy about that.”
Milligan came to districts her sophomore year and lost in straight sets in the first round, so even though she didn’t qualify to state this year, she said she definitely improved her game.
“I definitely did play better than last year and that is what I wanted to do,” Milligan said. “Last year, I was just happy to be here. This year I had goals and wanted to advance if I could. I am disappointed especially going three sets after winning the first one, but when you get to this level it is so easy to go three sets sometimes. I played the best that I could and wouldn’t expect anything else from myself. I’m happy with that.”
As for the three girls competing for their first time at districts, the doubles team of seniors Anna Manges and Marabelle Lance went up against the Sycamore doubles team of seniors Amanda Wilson and Sara Bolger in the first round and lost 6-1, 6-0, while sophomore Emily Marchal lost to Mason’s Emma Kruse, 6-1, 6-1.
“Sycamore was pretty tough,” Manges said. “We didn’t know how good or bad they would be going in, but they were very good. I think we played pretty good and I’m proud of the one game we got. It is disappointing to not be moving on, but I think we went out with a bang. It was our first year down here as seniors so I definitely feel pretty good about that.”
Marchal wasn’t too disappointed either.
“It was a super good experience to play today,” Marchal said. “It’s always interesting to play someone who is definitely a level above you so you kind of test yourself. I’m not really disappointed. It was my goal to get here in the first place and I was just going to do the best I could and that’s what I did. I played pretty well, but I could have probably served better. I’m hoping for bigger and better things next year.”
Greenville coach Jim Koontz said it was the first time he had four girls make it to the district tournament.
“We’ve never sent this many girls down here before so even though we’re going home early it was a good day,” Koontz said. “We’ve had a doubles and a singles before, but not two singles and a doubles so I thought we did well. We had a good season.
“It was a fun group to coach this year,” he continued. “We had a good time and they all got better, but these kids were just better than us today. Anna and Marabelle had a good season. They went 19-4 overall I think and made first team all league. They gave it all they had and that’s all you can ask of them. Emily has really improved over the last two years and Natalie was up in the second set 3-2 and then the tables got turned on her, but she’s just a junior and Emily is a sophomore so I think they both will be back next year.”
The Daily Advocate sports editor Skip Weaver can be reached at (937) 569-4316 or by email at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @skipweaver65.