Elise Betscher’s head felt like those yellow fuzzy balls spinning in the wind Friday at the Ohio State Tennis Center.
Reaching two Final Fours in the same weekend? Lexington’s No. 1 player was blown away.
“There’s a lot to take in,” she said Friday. “It’s overwhelming.”
Led by Betscher, Lex reached the Division II Final Four of Sunday’s Ohio Tennis Coaches Association team tournament in Reynoldsburg by beating Clyde 3-0 on Tuesday.
On Friday afternoon, Betscher and partner Jillian Earnest achieved a breakthrough by reaching the OHSAA state semis with a pair of straight-set victories. They will face Kettering Alter’s Lauren Hawley and Amanda Showalter in Saturday’s 9:30 a.m. Division II semifinals.
It’s the first time in three tries Betscher and Earnest have reached the second day of the OHSAA tournament, having fallen short in the quarterfinals the last two years together. Betscher, just the fourth four-time state qualifier for Lexington, also reached the quarters in doubles as a freshman with Alisha Angle.
“Jillian and I knew we were not going to be able to play together again after this tournament (Betscher will likely resume her role as No. 1 singles player in the OTCA state tournament), so we were taking everything in and working hard for (the second day),” Betscher said.
“(Saturday), I don’t even think I’ll be nervous. To make the top four in the state is unbelievable. Everyone wants to win a state title, but our goal was to make it to the second day.”
The doubles field looks wide open. There are no teams left that reached the Final Four last year. Betscher is the only senior among the eight players and Earnest is one of only three juniors.
The three years they’ve played together might give Betscher and Earnest an edge. Then again, Hawley, a junior, and Showalter, a freshman, knocked off last year’s fourth-place team of Melli Martin and Minda Martin of Chesapeake 6-2, 6-3 in the quarters.
The other semi pits Pepper Pike Orange’s Adrian Young (junior) and Alissa Nakamoto (freshman) against Cincinnati Indian Hills sophomores Meredith Breda and Caroline Andersen.
It was Breda and Anderson who knocked off Lex’s other state-qualifying tandem of junior Alex Griebling and senior Nicole Dragos 6-3, 6-3 in the quarters.
Griebling and Dragos won their first match 6-1, 6-3 over Paige Quinton and Marissa Madison of Columbus School for Girls before falling in the quarters for the second straight year.
“That team from Indian Hills (the district champs in Cincinnati) made very few mistakes,” Lex coach Ron Schaub said. “We fought hard; it’s just hard to make it to the second day.
“There are a lot of good No. 1 and No. 2 singles players out there, and they get together (to play doubles) for the (OHSAA) tournament, so it’s just hard.”
As proof, Schaub can point to his own team. Year in and year out, Lex is one of the most respected programs in Ohio, yet Betscher and Earnest became just the school’s third girls doubles team to make it to Day 2 at state. Only Courtney Schaub and Torrie Goudy have made it to the finals, losing in the 2007 championship match to a team from Hathaway Brown.
“A lot of the pressure is off,” Earnest said. “Even if we lose in the semis, we’re playing two matches Saturday (there is also a consolation match). We’ve already done better than the last two years.”
Betscher is making a recruiting visit to Marian University, an NAIA school in Indianapolis, next week. The coach from that college was in the stands Friday as Betscher and Earnest outlasted Cincinnati Wyoming’s Haley Thoresen and Maddie Boster 7-6 (5), 7-5 in the first round and then dusted Mary Anne Click and Linda Yang from the Columbus School for Girls 6-1, 6-3 in the quarters.
If Betscher decides to give up tennis, she could always become a Vegas oddsmaker. She correctly predicted that the quarterfinal round would be easier if she and Earnest survived their opening match, based on the fact that Cincinnati is a hotbed for tennis.
“I didn’t want to jinx myself,” Betscher said. “If you think the hard one is over, and you’re going to win, you’re not going to do as well. We had to go out and focus like the first match.”
Good thing because they never knew when the wind was going to kick up.
“Lobs weren’t tough; the lower shots seemed to be more difficult,” Earnest said. “The wind was toughest on your serve. You had to spin it in more.”
In their opening match, Betscher and Earnest rallied from a 2-4 deficit in the first-set tiebreaker to win the next four points and five of the last six. In the quarters, they fell behind 0-1 in the second set when Earnest suffered consecutive double faults, but she immediately redeemed herself by smoking a service return winner and put-away volley for a love-30 lead in the next game.
Lex broke serve and never trailed in the match again.
“I had to make up for that first game,” Earnest said.
She might have thrown off Friday’s opponents with her two-forehand attack. She serves with her right hand and hits a two-fisted forehand off that side. Instead of a traditional backhand she switches hands and hits a left-handed forehand.
“Over the winter my dad and I worked on it,” said Earnest, who writes left-handed. “I was stronger hitting one-handed with my left hand than I was hitting a two-handed backhand.”
Dragos and Griebling will now regroup to help the team in quest of its fourth straight state team title Sunday.
“It will be easy to (bounce back),” Dragos said. “This loss will make us work hard for Sunday. That (Indian Hills) team was probably the best we’ve played all year. They really knew how to rally. Everything we do is is just put-away, but here we have to change to playing a more complete game.”
Said Griebling, “Nicole and I just don’t play that much together, and the other team hit a lot of good crosscourt shots.”