PORTSMOUTH — As it turned out, all year in fact, Wheelersburg High School senior Maddie Gill did just fine on her own.
So much so that Gill — for the fourth and final time — punched a ticket to the coveted state girls tennis tournament in a week.
After three seasons of teaming with Kaitlyn Sommer and competing as a doubles duo, this time Gill qualified for the state meet as a singles player — following Wednesday’s runner-up effort at the eight-member Division II Southeast-East District tournament at Portsmouth High School.
Gill, already a two-time district champion and one-time runner-up with Sommer, swept her first two matches on Wednesday —before being swept by the only individual which has defeated her all season.
That would be South Point freshman Meredith Riley, who defeated Gill by identical 6-2 6-2 scores —after winning with a 6-0 and 6-4 sweep in last week’s Division II sectional tournament.
But the good news for Gill, and even Circleville’s doubles team of Kara Hinton and Emma Shaw, is that the district runner-up AND champion both automatically qualify for the state meet.
That was the easy part for Gill, who swept returning qualifier Madelyn Shipley of Adena 6-1 and 6-3 in the quarterfinals —before clinching her state spot with a 6-1 and 6-0 semifinal sweep of Ella Bennington of Logan Elm.
Gill — in a post-meet interview on Wednesday — said that while tennis has been her life, she still sounded shocked at the thought of four state tournament trips in as many years.
“It means a lot and I still can’t believe it. Even though I’ve been playing forever, I just can’t believe that I am still able to go again. It’s kind of crazy to think about,” she said, with a slight laugh.
Perhaps because it’s never been done at Wheelersburg.
“I don’t have the scoreboard in front of me, but I’m not sure anybody has their name at the state level four times,” said Wheelersburg coach Jodi Wright. “I know there have been people at the state a couple years, but to have somebody that accomplished and to have had the opportunity to watch Maddie grow has just been great. To get to district is awesome, but she has done well enough qualifying first or second every year at the district level to get to the state. That’s just amazing. She has done a great job and we’re very proud of her.”
Gill discussed her district run this season as opposed to the previous three, when she and the graduated Sommer swept through the single-elimination competition.
“Singles is a lot different than doubles. When you have a doubles partner, you have somebody out there with you to help motivate you. But with singles, you are by yourself so you have to motivate yourself. That’s something I’ve really been working on and it’s helped out a lot,” she said.
Motivation was no worry for Gill, as her singles play was superior to all others in the district —except for the freshman sensation Riley.
With three years remaining, and barring a catastrophe or even coronavirus continuing to cause havoc, Riley likely already has one of the two state spots locked up.
“She is a really good player. She has a really good forehand and she is able to spin the ball really well. And her serves and placing the ball are really good too,” said Gill. “I’ve actually enjoyed playing against her. I think it’s helped me a lot.”
Riley shut out first-time tournament qualifier Kathryn Nelson of Notre Dame (6-0 6-0), before sweeping Athens’ Anna Chen 6-4 and 6-2 in the semifinals.
Chen was part of the Athens tandem which Wheelersburg’s Sommer and Gill defeated for the Division II district doubles championship last season.
Speaking of doubles, Wheelersburg was represented Wednesday with a pair of teams — Emily Janney and Maegan Jolly for one and Payton Walker and Isabella Hamilton for the other.
Janney and Jolly nearly advanced to the state, but lost to the eventual championship team of East Liverpool’s Sydney Cooper and Gianna Davie.
Janney and Jolly needed three sets to survive Waverly’s Kayla Barker and Kaelyn Linn (6-2, 4-6 and 6-4), then put up a good match against the Potter pair in the semifinals —before falling 7-5 and 6-2.
Cooper and Davie defeated Circleville’s twosome 6-1 and 6-3 for the doubles title, after Hinton and Shaw secured their state spot by knocking off Logan Elm’s Hope Akers and Keller Clouse in three thrilling sets — which included a third-set tiebreak.
Logan Elm advanced by sweeping Walker and Hamilton in the quarterfinals, 6-1 and 6-0.
Wright was “so proud” of her doubles teams.
“Emily and Maegan were new to varsity this year, and Maegan was new to tennis. To see them grow from where they started this year to where they are right now, they are completely different players and I am so proud of them,” said the coach. “And I’ve always had confidence in Payton and Isabella. I’ve told them several times through the season that they are playing doubles on any given night because I can count on them for a win. Then for them to practice against Emily and Maegan make them that much better. All four girls have come to a whole new level. It’s been a lot of fun and I can’t explain how much fun it’s been.”
While Walker graduates, Jolly and Hamilton complete their junior seasons —while Janney ends her sophomore campaign.
“It’s been an amazing ride with them (doubles teams) this year, and we have a long way to go still,” said Wright. “It’s been awesome.”
Minford was represented by a doubles unit —senior Kennedy Prater and sophomore Addyson Akers.
The Potters swept the Lady Falcons 6-2 and 7-5 in the quarterfinals.
East Liverpool, whose trip to Portsmouth from eastern Ohio was four-and-a-half hours, now travels cross-state to Mason —and the Division II state tournament next weekend (Friday, Oct. 23 and Saturday, Oct. 24).
Gill, Riley, Hinton and Shaw will join them there, as the tournament takes place inside the incredible Lindner Family Tennis Center —directly across from Kings Island amusement park.
It’s a familiar venue for Gill, but now she will go as a solo act.
A report previewing Gill’s prepping for the state meet will appear in next Thursday’s edition of The Portsmouth Daily Times.
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Division II Southeast-East District
Singles Tournament Results
Quarterfinal: Meredith Riley (South Point) def. Kathryn Nelson (Notre Dame) 6-0 6-0
Quarterfinal: Anna Chen (Athens) def. Brooklyn Pound (Claymont) 6-0 6-1
Quarterfinal: Ella Bennington (Logan Elm) def. McKenzie Harman (East Liverpool) 6-2 6-4
Quarterfinal: Maddie Gill (Wheelersburg) def. Madelyn Shipley (Adena) 6-1 6-3
Semifinal: Meredith Riley (South Point) def. Anna Chen (Athens) 6-4 6-2
Semifinal: Maddie Gill (Wheelersburg) def. Ella Bennington (Logan Elm) 6-1 6-0
Championship: Meredith Riley (South Point) def. Maddie Gill (Wheelersburg) 6-2 6-2
Division II Southeast-East District
Doubles Tournament Results
Quarterfinal: Keller Clouse and Hope Akers (Logan Elm) def. Payton Walker and Isabella Hamilton (Wheelersburg) 6-1 6-0
Quarterfinal: Kara Hinton and Emma Shaw (Circleville) def. Kara Loader and Ziciah Gibson (Cambridge) 3-6 6-3 6-1
Quarterfinal: Sydney Cooper and Gianna Davie (East Liverpool) def. Kennedy Prater and Addyson Akers (Minford) 6-2 7-5
Quarterfinal: Maegan Jolly and Emily Janney (Wheelersburg) def. Kayla Barker and Kaelyn Linn (Waverly) 6-2 4-6 6-4
Semifinal: Kara Hinton and Emma Shaw (Circleville) def. Keller Clouse and Hope Akers (Logan Elm) 3-6 6-0 8-6 (tiebreak)
Semifinal: Sydney Cooper and Gianna Davie (East Liverpool) def. Maegan Jolly and Emily Janney (Wheelersburg) 7-5 6-2
Championship: Sydney Cooper and Gianna Davie (East Liverpool) def. Kara Hinton and Emma Shaw (Circleville) 6-1 6-3
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved