LIMA — Mackenzie Wills is back for another crack at the Lima Area Tennis Association’s women’s single title.
The Ada product, who played at Ohio Northern University this past year as a freshman, was a runner-up in 2016 and has made it to the finals again this year. She is hoping last year’s experience and consistency carries her to the 2017 title today.
Wills picked up a 6-0, 6-1 win over Erin Hotmire in her first match and then bested Lucia Fuduric, a 9-year-old, in a hard fought 6-3, 6-3 victory in the semifinals held at the University of Northwestern tennis courts Saturday.
Even though Fuduric is a fourth-grader, Wills, who said she came into the tournament a little rusty because she hasn’t hit the courts since the season ended at ONU, admitted to being a little nervous facing the younger Fuduric despite her age.
“For her being a 9-year-old, she scared the crap out of me,” Wills said. “She has a bright future ahead of her.”
Standing in Wills’ way of the title is Marina Fuduric, the older sister of Lucia, who is in the sixth grade at St. Charles.
Marina Fuduric has been cruising through the tournament, beating Lauren Snider 6-1, 6-0 and then followed it up with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Julianna Hotmire in the semifinals.
“I played really good today and I felt pretty confident,” Marina Fuduric said.
Wills said she will need to bring her A-game if she is going to beat the elder Fuduric who reached the finals in 2015 as a 9-year-old.
“I have more experience under my belt and I have got to keep a cool head,” Wills said. “Marina is amazing.”
In the men’s singles, Jeff Brown is poised for a three-peat after a dominating performance on the second day of competition. Brown handled Jeff Liddle, 6-0, 6-0 in his first match and then followed it up by downing Shawnee senior Michael Rutter, 6-2, 6-0.
“I am playing alright,” Brown said. “I haven’t really played competitively since last year. I teach on a daily bases so I know how to play the game of tennis and that gets me by and that helps out.”
The majority of Brown’s competition this year has been former students but make no mistake Brown shows no mercy when they cross the line onto the court.
“The best way to learn something in tennis is losing,” Brown said. “If you can’t pull a few things out of a match while you lost you are not learning. I think the easiest way to learn tennis is by losing so I hope the kids are gaining something in the losses and revamp their games and adjust their games.”
Even though Brown admitted he was a little sore due to age, he said he feels comfortable going into the finals.
“I never shy away from a match and I hope my students don’t either,” Brown said. “I play tennis to win. I don’t play sports to take second place. It might sound crazy but if I am going to do something I am going to try and win at it. It is just my personality.”
Brown will battle another familiar face when he faces Jason Barton, a Shawnee graduate who is a junior tennis player at LaMoyne College which is located in Syracuse, New York.
Unlike Brown, Barton has had a tougher road to make it to the finals. After defeating Scott Wills 6-1, 6-3, in his first match Saturday, Barton then went on to hold of Emerson Hager, 6-2, 7-5 to advance to the finals.
“This last match pushed me more than the other two,” Barton said. “So far I have been playing OK and hopefully it continues against Jeff.”
Prior to going to college, Barton practiced with Brown quite a bit so he understand what he is up against when he faces the two-time defending champion.
“He is a solid player and is out there on the court every day and I am not. I wish I was,” Barton said. “It will be a tough match. It will take focus to beat him.”
In the 30-plus singles women’s championship Mary Lou Roush is seeking her third straight title after remaining unbeaten in the round robin format. Also unbeaten in the bracket is Barbie Prince. Barring an upset in their first matches the two will square off in the second match of the day to determine the champion.
The finals for all the singles will begin at 10 a.m. at the UNOH courts.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on twitter @JoseNogueras1