LIMA – Shawnee’s girls tennis team might have been the odds-on favorite to take the Western Buckeye League team tournament title after sweeping through the league race during the regular season.
However, head coach Nate Higgins didn’t count his chickens before they were hatched.
“I knew we were capable of winning it but until you go out there and win the matches, you don’t know,” Higgins said. “I knew as the day went on today, we’d be facing some stiffer challenges against good opponents.
Higgins’ players delivered, winning all three singles and both doubles titles Saturday at UNOH.
“We’ve built up a lot of expectations over the years in our program here. This is my third season as the head coach and we have a group of girls that just work so hard in the off-season and during the season. After a match, it’s not uncommon for them to ask if they can go back out and play and I tell them yes. They just enjoy playing this game.
“What also helps is that they are self-driven and there is a friendly rivalry between them. I have to remind them on occasion that they are teammates; they just want to win so badly, no matter who they are playing.”
The toughest match in the finals Saturday was at first singles when Shawnee’s Aria Patel outdueled Bath’s Esther Bolon 2-6, 6-1, 6-3.
“After she lost the first set, I just told her to regain her loose focus. We started to use that as a stress mid-season,” Higgins said. “You have to stay relaxed and yet stay focused; that’s a fine line and it can be tough to do but that is what we remind them of. They just have to keep playing the game of tennis the way I know they can play; they know how to play this game and they just need to be reminded of that on occasion.”
At second singles, Kunmi Ojo got revenge for a regular-season loss by sweeping Bath’s Ruby Bolon 6-1, 6-2.
“That was one we were concerned about because Kunmi lost to her in three sets in the regular season but the way she played today and how it ended up being was special. Ruby is a fine player and for Kunmi to beat her like that was a bit shocking,” Higgins said.
At third singles, Alotas Wei handled Wapakoneta’s Ellie Schroer 6-1, 6-0.
At first doubles, Sanjana Rajasenkaran and Katie Clark knocked off Casey Minnig and Alyssa Good of Wapakoneta 6-1, 6-1 and at second doubles, Ella Atkinson and Ladi Onamusi bested Ottawa-Glandorf’s Kerri Ellerbrock and Alysha Verhoff 7-6 (3), 6-2.
“The last two seasons, we were a young team but we were working hard and developing our game,” Higgins said. “They push each other hard to become the best players they can be and that carries to the junior varsity.”