When Shawnee’s Katie Clark and Alotus Wei teamed up for the first time as a doubles team this year the duo got off to a rocky start.
“The first match together was actually pretty rough,” Clark said. “We took it to like three sets and we barely won.”
But since that first match, the Indian pair has learned to work together and become one of the best doubles teams in the area. As Shawnee’s No. 1 doubles team, the duo won the Western Buckeye League tournament title and after a top four showing in the Division II sectionals and districts, Clark and Wei are heading to state.
This marks the first time a Shawnee female has made state since 2005.
Wei and Clark will face the South No. 1 seed of Cincinnati Indian Hills’ Morgan Coburn and Hayley Hirsch at the Linder Family Tennis Courts in Mason on Friday. Bath’s Ruby and Esther Bolon, making their second trip to state, will face the Wheelersburg team of Maddie Gill and Kaitlyn Sommer.
The decision to match these two came at the onset of the season. Wei was a prolific singles player, having two WBL singles titles under her belt, and Clark, also a league champion in doubles, was looking for a partner.
Wei, who’s goal was to make state, opted to play doubles instead of No 3 singles.
“Katie had needed a doubles partner and Alotus voiced interest at the end of last season, even though she was a singles player, to play doubles and make state,” Shawnee head coach Nate Higgins said. “First doubles is a challenging position and I think she (Wei) embraced it.”
Wei said going into her senior year the end goal was to make it to state.
“I thought I my best chance in doubles with Katie because she was very experienced,” Wei said.
Despite the fact that the two are talented tennis players, Higgins said the pairing of players does not always work but because they were seniors and the fact that they have been teammates for four years, the transition was a little easier.
Clark said that the two had different styles of playing and so she did not know exactly how it was going to work.
“It was a little big of an adjustment but we figured it out pretty well and pretty quickly,” Clark said. “I had to tell her my strategies that I knew so she knew where I was going to be and what I was going to do.”
“I kind of knew there was something special because of all the hard work they put in, and we have a team with a lot of talent and that makes everyone better,” Higgins said. “With doubles it is similar in the fact that I am better when my doubles partner is playing better.”
Throughout the year, the two began to learn each other’s tendencies with Clark taking the lead due to her being more experienced at doubles play. Wei, who has played doubles, came in with the talent of a singles player but had to adjust her game.
Wei admits at the onset it was a little difficult because she was not used to playing doubles but once she got the hang of it everything seemed to click.
“It was easier as the year went on. There are definitely ebbs and flows when we are hitting the ball well together and other times one of us won’t be on that day and that is just doubles,” Wei said.
Wei added that at the Port Clinton doubles tournament Aug. 24 is when the duo knew they had something special.
“We progressively got better as the season went on and I think for me when we played the Port Clinton tournament we dropped two games the whole tournament and I thought this is pretty good,” Wei said.
Wei said achieving the goal of making state is something she is proud of.
“It was a really good experience with my partner and with my team and I have a really supportive family and coach,” Wei said. “I just want to play my best and have fun because it is such a big accomplishment making state.”
Clark is also proud of making state.
“It was very exciting,” Clark said. “I knew we could do it and just didn’t actually pull it off. It was handed to us and we worked really hard.”
To prepare for state, the Shawnee team will practice with the Bath pair of Ruby and Esther Bolon, who defeated Wei and Clark for third place at the districts.
“That is another advantage we have with another team from the area that is going down to state,” Higgins said. “We can make each other better and expose a lot things we need to work on in practice.
Higgins said he expects a lot of tough competition at state and the duo will face the doubles team that is currently rated as the best Division II team in the state according to the Ohio Tennis Zone statewide rankings. Hirsch has committed to play at the University of Cincinnati and Morgan Coburn will be heading to Georgetown.
“It is definitely a challenge. You still have to stay positive. You still have to work and you have to want it and when things weren’t quite going our way the girls kept pushing and that is everything you can ask for as a coach.”
Clark and Wei said they just want to have fun down at state and take in the experience.
“I just want us to play our best and have a little fun,” Clark said. “We don’t want to get too worked up about points because there are a lot of really good teams down there. We want to play relaxed and focus and do our best.“
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.