LEXINGTON — Lexington junior Elise Betscher has done interviews with the News Journal that took longer than Wednesday’s tennis showdown with Ottawa Hills.
Living up to their school nickname, the second-ranked Minute(wo)men made such quick work of No. 14 Ottawa Hills that Lex clinched the victory, 3-0, with Betscher just two games into the second set of her No. 1 singles duel with Shivani Bhatt.
Betscher had won eight of nine games over Bhatt, a 2011 OHSAA district doubles champ, when Lex locked up a berth in Tuesday’s district finals at No. 8 Clyde. At stake will be a trip to the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association state team tournament at Reynoldsburg High School on Oct. 21.
“It seems like we’re always playing Ottawa Hills (in the OTCA districts), so we always get pumped up for them,” said Betscher, who succeeded two-time OHSAA state singles runner-up Courtney Earnest this year at the top of Lex’s lineup. “We’re all practicing so hard at this time of the year. We just made it happen.”
Lex barely needed an hour to put Wednesday’s match away. Earlier this season, Betscher was sitting in her parked car, with the engine running, doing a phone interview with the News Journal. By the time the conversation was over the car had died.
All that matters now is that Betscher has done a nice job of steering Lex to the No. 2 ranking in the OTCA poll. And she’s done it while nursing an inflamed knee that has turned an ice pack into her constant companion.
“It’s mainly from overuse,” she said. “You just have to deal with the pain. My freshman year, I needed a cortisone shot in my shoulder and last year I had shin splints. This year has probably been the worst. I got another cortisone shot in my shoulder before the season and the pain in my shins went to my knee.
“I dread sitting out matches. I just hate doing nothing but watching my teammates.”
Betscher sat out matches against weaker opponents and has spent much of the latter part of the year playing doubles. She and sophomore Jillian Earnest went to state last year as a duo and won a sectional title last week together to earn a No. 1 seed in today’s OHSAA district tournament at Bowling Green. The district finals will be Saturday in Lima, with the top three placers in singles and doubles advancing to next week’s state tournament at Ohio State.
A state doubles berth would be Betscher’s third. She made it to Columbus as a freshman with Alisha Angle, but playing with Earnest is extra special because they’re best friends and next-door neighbors.
“We’ve been practicing together our whole lives, but this year we’ve really taken it serious and we’re learning how to move with each other,” Betscher said. “Lexington hasn’t ever had a state doubles champ and we’d like to be the first to do it.”
Betscher and Earnest will have plenty of company today in Bowling Green. Also qualifying in doubles for Lex was the sectional runner-up tandem of junior Nicole Dragos and sophomore Alex Griebling, while junior Courtney Ahmed and lone senior Emilee Wong advanced by finishing first and third, respectively, in singles.
Also representing the area will be St. Peter’s Ann Carracher and Bucyrus’ Macey Sheerer in singles and doubles teams from Shelby (Ashley Stahl and Samantha Wiggins) and Willard (Lynsie Allen and Allie Worcestor).
Coach Ron Schaub loaded up his doubles teams for Lex’s OHSAA run, giving Ahmed a rare opportunity to play singles. She made the most of it, rallying in the semifinals from a 5-6 deficit in the third set to beat Wong 7-3 in the decisive tiebreaker. Ahmed then capped a great weekend by beating Sheerer 7-5, 6-2 for the title.
If told before the season she’d be a sectional singles champ, Ahmed wouldn’t have believed it.
“No, not at all,” she said. “I’m shocked.”
Once she pulled even with Wong to force a tiebreaker, Ahmed almost felt a sense of relief.
“(Tiebreakers) are very common for me, so I felt like I had been given a break,” she said. “Once I took it to a tiebreaker I decided not to mess around.”
Ahmed said she takes a different approach to those mini-sets.
“At the start of the point I’m already thinking about where I’m going to put the ball,” she said. “I’m much more focused than in a regular game. All the hard work has paid off.”
Griebling played a big role in Wednesday’s speedy victory, dusting Nicole Mohan at No. 2 singles 6-1, 6-0. Wong lost only two games at No. 3 singles, while Dragos and Jillian Earnest won with a double bagel at No.1 doubles over sisters Michelle and Megan Healy.
Ironically, Griebling and Dragos play the Healy sisters in their district opener this morning.
“I looked over during changeovers to see what was going on,” said Griebling, who tried to play her match and scout the Healys at the same time Wednesday. “I haven’t been playing as much doubles as last year. I like singles more, but you get the alleys in doubles and you get to volley more. It’s faster paced.”
So what’s life been like without Earnie?
“It’s been different,” said Griebling of Courtney Earnest, who led Lex to consecutive OTCA state championships the last two years. “We’re all the same, out their working hard and stepping up. Everyone’s been able to win some big matches.”
Lex was 15-5 during the regular season, three of its losses to teams ranked in the top four of Division I and the others to D-II foes Columbus Academy and Dayton Oakwood, ranked No. 1 and 5 in the coaches poll, respectively. Teams Lex beat included Rocky River Magnificat, which has already qualified for the OTCA state tournament in Division I, and Pickerington Central, ranked No. 9 in D-I.
“I knew we’d still be strong, with everyone back but (Earnest) … although that one loss was huge,” Schaub said. “The girls are grinders; they’re hard-workers. I think our invitational, where we played some good matches with Dublin Jerome (ranked No. 1 in Division I), helped propel us.”