LEXINGTON — To anyone who would dare underestimate the Lexington tennis program, Tuesday’s state-qualifying 3-0 win over Clyde should serve as another valuable lesson.
Not that coach Ron Schaub’s girls have been paying much attention to rankings and seedings.
“We have a tendency to get ranked lower than we should be, so we don’t put much stock in the rankings,” said Maya Ahmed after her victory at No. 2 singles. “We know how much we’ve battled and improved and we always seem to pull it out when it counts most.”
How do you underestimate a program that has now qualified 11 straight years for the Final Four in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association team tournament? A team that has won five state championships and finished runner-up nine times?
It’s one thing to be ranked No. 7 in the latest coaches’ Division II state poll, but most shocking was being seeded fourth for the district tournament. Maybe everybody looked at the team on paper, saw that its No. 1 player was a freshman in a lineup with two other freshman and two sophomores and figured Lex couldn’t be all that.
“I was little bit nervous because we lost a lot of incredible players last year, so the pressure was on. I knew we couldn’t slack off … ever,” Ahmed said. “At the same time it’s exciting because the freshmen are so fun and got right into it.”
Ahmed, the only senior on the squad, has qualified for the OHSAA state tournament Friday and Saturday in Division II doubles with junior partner Jordyn Traxler. Freshman Sylvia Goldsmith, Lex’s No. 1 singles player, has also qualified for that tournament, which has moved this season to the Linder Family Tennis Center — home to the pros in the Western & Southern Open — in the Cincinnati suburb of Mason.
The entire team will be in action Sunday for the OTCA tournament in Reynoldsburg. Lex will meet No. 2-ranked Indiana Hills in one semi, with top-ranked Hathaway Brown and No. 8 Columbus Academy squaring off in the other, with the winners meeting that afternoon for the title.
“The kids have worked really hard and we’ve knocked off some good teams,” Schaub said. “I don’t know why we’re not ranked higher, but we played really good today and have to keep it going Sunday.”
Clyde swept all three singles matches in its upset of Ottawa Hills in the district semis, so Schaub tweaked his lineup. Ahmed and sophomore Kirstyn Geyer have looked good in singles, so he played them at No. 2 and 3, respectively. He fortified the doubles by moving Traxler, who usually plays No. 2 singles, to No. 1 doubles and paired her with sophomore Madi Mueller.
Freshmen Hayliegh Tucker and Katie Volz made up the No. 2 doubles team, but neither tandem figured in the outcome, because Lex’s singles players took care of business in quick order, dropping only six games in the three matches.
Goldsmith took out Beatriz Ytuarte-Orantes 6-1, 6-0, Ahmed topped Marissa Gill 6-0, 6-2 and Geyer beat Maddie St. Marie 6-2, 6-1.
“I’m super pumped we made it back to state; it’s a big accomplishment,” Traxler said. “We’re just younger and not as experienced as we’ve been, so it’s cool that some of the girls are going to experience state for the first time.”
Traxler didn’t use the state rankings as motivation. In fact, she pleaded ignorance when it came to the polls.
“I knew about it before the season, but I haven’t been focused on that,” she said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy road to state, but thought we could get there if we worked hard.”
Goldsmith, who had been beating high school and college players for the last couple of summers in the News Journal Tournament, didn’t panic when she started off her varsity career 0-2.
“I knew it was going to change (at the high school level), but it still took me by surprise,” she said. “I had to change something. I wasn’t consistent and I was double-faulting a bunch and I was hitting wide and long and anything you could think of. But my variety of shots now is way better and I’m getting more consistent and more powerful.”
Goldsmith reached the OHSAA district finals with ease before falling 6-3, 6-1 to 2014 state runner-up Olivia Rohrbacher of Sandusky Perkins.
“She’s powerful and helped me practice not just putting the ball away,” Goldsmith said. “You have to work the point more against someone like her. She can hit a variety of shots so you have to be on your toes.”
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