WHEELERSBURG — For Wheelersburg’s Kaitlyn Sommer and Maddie Gill, they indeed hope that the third time is in fact the charm.
That’s because the senior Sommer and the junior Gill go for their first match victory — in their third and final try — at the annual Division II state girls tennis tournament on Friday.
As many patrons at Kings Island amusement park across the way make one last go-round for the year, Sommer and Gill’s go-round is their final as Lady Pirates.
The pair, as either two-time Division II Southeast-East District champions (2018 and 2019) or as district runners-up two years ago, play in their third state tournament together — in Friday’s Division II doubles.
While matches for the 16-team single-elimination event are set to start at 9 a.m., and there are multiple courts inside the spacious Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, the D-II doubles do start later.
Gill and Sommer secured their state berth by advancing to the district finals, as they swept the duos from Washington Court House and Circleville in the quarterfinals and semifinals.
In the district championship match, they defeated Athens’ Ami Brannan and Anna Chen — thus clinching the top seed from the Southeast-East District, and earning a better draw for Friday.
The Lady Pirates, along with third-year Wheelersburg girls tennis coach Jodi Wright, have made their state goal for this year quite clear — win a first-round match.
And, while none of the matches are at all easy, this appears to be the most favorable draw that the tandem has had.
“Practice has been going well, and the girls are focused on their best effort for Friday,” said Wright, on Tuesday. “The draw has us playing a tough first round, but we feel we are in a good position for a possible first-round win. We need to stay focused on one point at a time, one game at a time until we finish the match.”
That first match is against a pair of Lima Bath juniors — Ruby Bolon and Esther Bolon.
The Bolons are the third-seeded squad from the Northwest District, as the top four teams qualified from the Northwest.
Should they defeat the Bolons, Gill and Sommer see the winner of Shaker Heights Laurel and Cincinnati Indian Hill, as Laurel — as it often does — landed the top seed from the Northeast.
Laurel — which consists of senior Rachel Buchinsky and freshman Ellie Brotherton — opens up against juniors Jessica August and Jesse Budde of Indian Hill, which is the fourth and final seed from the Southwest.
Buchinsky and Brotherton are the favorites for a victory in that contest, and if the surname Buchinsky rings a bell with Wheelersburg fans, it should.
Buchinsky was a sophomore on the Laurel doubles duo which swept Gill and Sommer 6-1 and 6-0 in their initial state appearance.
Last season, they lost their round-of-16 affair to Richfield Revere, 7-5 and 6-0.
And like last year, the Lady Pirates enter the state tournament on at least a three-match win streak — which they most definitely want to extend to four for their final go-round.
“My expectations and hopes are they stay focused, they play every point to win, and they communicate plays and strategies,” said Wright. “But I also want them to have fun and enjoy the experience of being at state together one last time.”
Speaking of one last time, the senior Brannan and sophomore Chen are making their final state appearance — but it is also their first.
In singles competition, Unioto senior Sylvia Gray competes in her fourth and final Division II state tournament — and is joined from the Southeast-East District by Adena freshman Madelyn Shipley.
Only the district finalists, in both doubles and singles matches, move on to the state meet from the Southeast-East District meet.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved