WHEELERSBURG —They say to save your best for last.
For Wheelersburg senior Maddie Gill, that’s the goal —and the go-for-it-all hope — on Friday.
That’s because Gill is making her fourth and final girls state tennis tournament appearance this weekend — only this time competing as a singles player following finishing as the Division II Southeast-East District runner-up.
But besides being a singles player, and different from her previous three trips as a doubles competitor with the graduated Kaitlyn Sommer, Gill is determined to not only win a set at the state meet — but a match.
“I want to see how far I can make it,” said Gill. “Hopefully, win a couple matches.”
She will have her opportunity beginning on Friday, as the 2020 girls state tennis tournament takes place —once again — inside the exquisite Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
The single-elimination singles matches, for both divisions I and II, will begin at 9 a.m. and run throughout the day.
Gill is making history as a four-time state meet qualifier —believed to be the first Wheelersburg tennis player in school history to do so.
Her and Sommer secured two Division II district championships together, following Gill’s freshman season and Sommers’ sophomore campaign — in which they were the runner-up.
The top two placers from the annual Southeast-East District tournament qualify for the state, of which the only individual to defeat Gill all season was the sectional AND district champion —freshman Meredith Riley of South Point.
Gill — who has already verbally committed to playing collegiate tennis at Georgetown (Ky.) College — discussed the differences between competing as a singles and doubles player.
Especially at the highest high school level.
“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.
The only achievements not reached by Sommer and Gill was winning a state match, or even a state set.
Against the state’s best Division II doubles teams of course, they lost 6-1 and 6-0 three years ago —before battling Richfield Revere’s tandem to a 7-5 and 6-0 defeat two years back.
Unfortunately for their last match together, the Lima Bath team of then-juniors Ruby Bolon and Esther Bolon blanked them (6-0 6-0) in both sets.
Gill will face Grace Lampman, a junior from Kettering Alter, in the opening round on Friday.
Gill must win to advance —as four victories are needed to capture a state championship.
Wheelersburg coach Jodi Wright explained she has noticed a difference in Gill this season, which the coach believes will only aid her in her state singles contests.
“This year, she has been confident, calm and you can tell she is focused on every ball. She practices with every match working on something. That calmness, confidence and control is something I hadn’t seen out of Maddie in the past years. There would be times I would see her looking over her shoulder or sometimes at the scoreboard. This year, she just walked out on the court and she had the belief she was going to play well and win and she did it,” said Wright. “That’s something that just grows with time, and it was fun to watch her this year as a singles player and dominate. It’s been great.”
And, hopefully, Gill goes all out this week —and has saved her best tennis for last.
“I’ve told her that this is her senior year and that she’s had an awesome career. Nobody could ask for anything better. She is already committed (to playing collegiate tennis), she doesn’t have that pressure, this is icing on the cake and whatever she can take with it, this is for her,” said Wright. “This is for all the work she’s put in all her life playing tennis. Just go for it.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved