LIMA — Wapakoneta’s Madison Watt made it to state as part of a doubles team in 2015. This year, the Redskin senior is flying solo and once again appears on the right track to return to state as a singles player after capturing the Division II sectional title at the University of Northwestern Ohio tennis courts Saturday.
Watt defeated Lima Central Catholic’s Olivia Kesner, 6-2, 6-3, in the championship finals to secure a No. 1 seed at districts which will be held at Bowling Green beginning Thursday.
“This is my first step because districts will be tough,” Watt said. “My goal was to win sectionals and get a top seed.”
Kesner, just a freshman, proved to be Watt’s toughest opponent on the Redskins’ dominating run through the singles bracket. On Thursday, Watt did not drop a single game in her two matches. She followed that up by beginning Saturday’s play with a 6-1, 6-0 victory in the semifinals against Bluffton’s Julianne Hotmire.
But Kesner, who held off Shawnee’s Alotus Wei, 7-6, 7-5 in her semifinal, showed she was not intimated by the Wapakoneta senior and took the first game to open the first set. However, the Redskin senior bounced back and took the next six out of seven games to capture the opening set.
Despite the first set loss, Kesner was not discouraged and won the opening game of the second set. Watt, with powerful ground strokes and precision placement, took the next four games to grab a commanding 4-1 lead.
Kesner showed some resiliency by capturing the next two games, but Watt proved to be too much and garnered the final two games to secure the sectional title.
“It was tough,” Watt said. “Olivia is a really tough player and she is a freshman so she is going be excellent when she gets older. I played smart and just didn’t try to kill everything.”
Wapakoneta head coach Jason Johnson said Watt, who is coming off a Western Buckeye League first singles championship, is playing so well because she is putting in the extra time and effort to make a run in the postseason.
“I would have to credit the amount of time she puts in on the court,” Johnson said. “Yesterday I didn’t hold practice but when I walked out of the school yesterday she was on the courts. We didn’t have a formal practice and she was still hitting. I’m impressed with her dedication to the sport.”
Wei, also a freshman, took third place after defeating Hotmire 6-1, 6-3. Both netters will also be heading for districts.
Watt will have some familiar faces to hang out with at districts after the Redskin pair of Kate Henderson and MaKayla Schroeder took first place in the doubles bracket after they defeated the St. Marys duo of Clare Caywood and Jennifer Brown 6-2, 6-2.
In the semifinals the Wapakoneta tandem defeated Bluffton’s Katie Wright and Lucie Fett, 6-1, 6-4, while the Rider team bested Shawnee’s Rishika Avvari and Meghana Chanamolu 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 in their semifinals. The Bluffton and Shawnee teams will also be heading to districts.
Teamwork is what Henderson and Schroeder said was the key to them winning the sectional doubles title.
“It was very exciting because this is the first year we have played together and we really hit it off and it has been a great year since the start,” said Henderson who failed to make it to districts last year with a different doubles partner. “It was a goal of mine to make it to districts and to make it with MaKayla is fantastic.”
Schroeder added that the team works well together because they balance each other out.
“She calms me down and I have never had someone to really calm me down and she is really positive and brings a good vibe to the team,” Schroeder said.
At the onset of the season, the two were not paired together but after the team’s first match of the season, Johnson made the decision to combine their talents.
“We figured to put those two together and it has paid off,” Johnson said. “They won the WBL and they came out of sectionals as the first seed so that is huge. Their communication is big. They do a really good job of picking each other up as well and when one of them is down the other picks them up and says ‘we’ve got it, we’ve got.’”
Johnson said this type of communication will help them at districts where the competition gets tougher.
FINDLAY — The Celina doubles team of Breanna Jenkins and Miranda Rable finished third and teammate Ally Harris was fourth at Findlay High School. Jenkins and Rable and Harris all advanced to districts.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on twitter at @JoseNogueras1