By Josh Brown
TROY — Troy’s Katie Sherrick and Emma Kazmaier had places to go and needed to take care of business.
Tippecanoe’s Amelia Zweizig and the doubles team of Jordan Jones and Sophia McDowell both ended up with battles on their hands.
In the end, all five players were able to do what needed to be done to claim sectional championships at the Division I and II sectional tournament Saturday at Troy Community Park, with Sherrick and Kazmaier winning the D-I doubles title, Zweizig the D-II singles and Jones and McDowell the D-II doubles crowns.
* Division I
With a homecoming dance only hours away, Troy’s Katie Sherrick and Emma Kazmaier had a delicate balancing act to maintain.
“I mean, I was trying hard to play my best to end it fast — but I also really wanted to be seeded first,” Sherrick, a junior, said. “So I didn’t really care how much time I had to get ready for homecoming.”
When asked how important maintaining their top seed heading into next week’s district tournament was, they were both on the same page.
“Yeah, definitely,” they said in unison.
Sherrick and Kazmaier, a senior, swept their way through Saturday’s Division I sectional finals at Troy Community Park, defeating Greenville’s Abby Swensen and Addie Haupt 6-3, 7-5 in the semifinal round and Butler’s Ashley Hess and Hannah Scarpelli 6-3, 7-5 in the championship match.
Sherrick and Kazmaier played first and second singles throughout the regular season this year after having both played doubles last season, with Sherrick qualifying for district with then-partner Hailey Taylor.
“It’s insane,” Sherrick said. “Last year, I was seeded third. Going in today, I was really nervous. I’m always really nervous before playing, because you never know who is going to have a good day or a bad day.”
“It feels great,” Kazmaier said. “Because I didn’t even make it that far last year. To be a senior and to win the sectional, it feels great.”
And even though both second sets were close, Troy coach Mark Goldner had faith that he didn’t need to talk to his players. They knew what had to be done.
“When they were playing the first match, I was drying the courts and trying to keep my mind off of it a bit,” Goldner said with a chuckle. They got down 4-1 in that second set, then 5-4 — then 5-5 and finally 7-5. And then in the second one, I don’t feel like they were ever really out of control. When they were down, they were only a game down, so it was easy to get back into it. So I think the experience of playing singles in some pressure through the year helped them a lot today. I don’t think there was any panic when they got down, because they’ve been through it in singles.”
The duo now awaits its draw for next week’s district tournament, which begins Thursday at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
* Division II
Experience and composure proved to be the key, both for the all-senior doubles team of Jordan Jones and Sophia McDowell and for freshman Amelia Zweizig.
Zweizig dropped the first set in her championship match, only to rally and win the Division II sectional title over the No. 1 seed, Eaton’s Sophia Murphy, while Jones and McDowell lost a big second-set lead, only to regain the advantage in the third set to close out a sectional final victory over Milton-Union’s top-seeded Abby Hissong and Meredith Fitch Saturday at Troy Community Park.
For Jones and McDowell, it was a win a year in the making.
“Jordan and Sophia played doubles together before, during last season,” Tippecanoe coach Kaci Matthews said. “They lost in the match to get to districts last year, so this was redemption. They felt like they had a lot to prove, and they went out and proved it. Coming in as seniors and leaders and captains of our team, that has a lot to do with the way they’re viewed by their teammates, and as their coach, I know they’re going to leave it all out on the court.”
“It feels really good,” Jones said. “We’ve played together for four years straight, and last year, we lost that last match (to get to district), so it feels good to win it together senior year.”
“It feels great,” McDowell said. “Our last year together, it’s just amazing.”
They had to, also. Jones and McDowell, the No. 2 seed going in, defeated Milton-Union’s fourth-seeded Caitlin Bushelman and Laura Billing 6-1, 6-2 to start the day, while Hissong and Fitch defeated No. 3 seed Bree Latting and Gianna Embry from Northwestern 6-3, 6-0.
Jones and McDowell cruised through the first set 6-2 and built a 5-1 lead in the second, but Hissong and Fitch came roaring back, forcing a tiebreaker. Hissong and Fitch then watched a 5-2 lead disappear but held on to win the second set 7-6 (5).
“We just had to talk to each other and calm each other down,” Jones said. “We just told each other that it was for the No. 1 seed and we had to pull through and win it.”
“We just had to pick our confidence back up,” McDowell said. “We were down a little bit, but we just talked to each other more — and we were ready to win in that third set.”
They did just that, pulling ahead to close the match out with a 6-3 win in the third set.
But Hissong and Fitch, who will take a No. 2 seed into the district tournament, had nothing to hang their heads about.
“I feel like the second set, we were down 5-1 and fought back,” Milton-Union assistant coach Sharon Paul said. “They never quit trying, and they never quit trying different things to see if they could get back into the match. And in the third, no one was holding serve. Once they held serve, that was it. They finally held and we didn’t, and that decided the match. But we played hard. Both teams did.”
Third-seeded Zweizig, meanwhile, began her day with a 6-0, 7-5 win over Kenton Ridge’s Maci Wallace, the No. 2 seed, while unseeded Dakota Schroeder lost to Murphy 6-2, 6-3 to set up an all-freshman battle for the sectional title.
Zweizig dropped the first set but took control from there, defeating Murphy 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 in what could be the first of many matchups between the two over their careers.
“In the beginning of the season, if she would drop the first set, you’d start seeing her shoulders droop, her head droop — and her game droop. And then, in these last two to three weeks of good, solid tennis — she went up against Butler, Troy, Greenville, played at sectionals — tough, tough matches, and those tough matches in the GWOC taught her how to play through adversity. She is now able to take adversity and say ‘alright, I’ve learned from it, where do we go from here?’ And to have that mentality as a freshman and be able to overcome adversity at such a young age, I think the sky is the limit for Amelia as long as she continues to work.”
“It feels really good,” Zweizig said of the win. “It just took a lot of hard work and my coach’s encouragement (to come back after dropping the first set). Being a freshman and not really knowing what you’re getting into is hard. I just needed more work and to play more matches.”
Milton-Union’s Bushelman and Billing bounced back in the consolation final, defeating Latting and Embry in three sets, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. And Tippecanoe’s Schroeder, also a freshman, dropped her match against Wallace 6-0, 6-3 and will be the No. 4 seed at the district tournament.
The district tournament begins Thursday at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.