By Josh Brown
TROY — Tippecanoe began Division II sectional tournament play Tuesday with six players still in the running for district berths.
Five of them cashed in — though two had to travel mid-match to do it — and one still has a shot today.
Tippecanoe’s Kennedy Reeder and the doubles team of Ally Merrick and Sophia McDowell, the Red Devils’ seeded players going into the tournament, all cruised through their matches and into Saturday’s semifinal round Tuesday at Troy Community Park and Troy High School, while the doubles team of Jordan Jones and Victoria Nordquist was able to pull off a three-set upset that ended at Dayton Center Courts thanks to on-and-off rain all day long.
Ladia Coning’s match against Greenon’s Arian McNeil, the No. 2 seed, was delayed until Wednesday after the D-I tournament.
“We started today with six players, we got five to districts and we can get that sixth one there tomorrow,” Tippecanoe coach Kaci Finfrock said. “And Ladia’s been one of my most consistent players, has only lost three matches all year.”
The oddest and arguably best match that was completed Tuesday was the quarterfinal between Jones and Nordquist and Milton-Union’s Ashley Wombold and Abby Hissong, the No. 3 seed in the doubles bracket.
Jones and Nordquist battled their way to a 7-5 win in the first set, but Wombold and Hissong roared back in the second set, winning it 6-3 to force a third set amidst a steadily-increasing-in-force drizzle that began to take its toll on the courts themselves.
With Jones and Nordquist up 3-0 in the third, the decision was made to finish the match indoors at Dayton Center Courts, so everyone packed up to leave.
“We were actually down 3-0 in that third set, so that (the move indoors) may have helped our girls a little,” Milton-Union coach Diana Brumbaugh said. “The girls brought it back to 5-5, but after working so hard to get it back, they let down a little and Tipp took advantage.”
Jones and Nordquist closed out the match with a 7-5 win in the third to advance to the semifinals — and next week’s district tournament.
“That was some of the best tennis I’ve seen those girls play together,” Finfrock said. “Milton’s girls were smart and athletic, and we had some really long rallies. Honestly, I think my girls just had a little more experience playing together, and that made the difference.”
Wombold and Hissong, Milton-Union’s first and second singles players, respectively, defeated Kenton Ridge 6-1, 6-0 to reach the quarterfinals, while Jones and Nordquist defeated Brookville 6-2, 6-4 and Springfield Shawnee 6-2, 6-2 to get there.
“I was very proud of the girls,” Brumbaugh said. “Abby was on reserves just last year, only picked up a racket for the first time last August. She’s come so far. It was a lot of pressure, and she handled it well. And Ashley, once we were indoors, just upped her game and played very smart tennis. I was proud of my girls. They never quit.”
“I know both of those girls and worked with them over the summer, and I hear updates about them every night from my mom,” said Finfrock, a Milton-Union graduate and also Brumbaugh’s daughter. “They played really well today. Abby’s only played for a year and a half now. She’s making tennis a priority, and it’s paying off for her big time. All four girls played a great match.”
Reeder, the No. 4 seed in the singles bracket, cruised through her matches, defeating Greenon’s Valerie Bandel 6-0, 6-1, Fort Loramie’s Claire Larger 6-0, 6-0 and Brookville’s Laura Bowen 6-3, 6-1 to qualify for the district tournament.
“After the Central Buckeye Conference tournament, Kennedy said she felt like the year was rounding out how she hoped it would,” Finfrock said. “She finished last year below .500, and she made that her goal this year, to be above .500. And she has done that tenfold. She’s battled this entire year. It hasn’t been an easy road for her, so to see her peaking at the end of the year and all that hard work paying off is huge.”
And Ally Merrick and Sophia McDowell, the top-seeded doubles team, had little trouble moving on. They defeated Lehman’s Diana and Sarah Gibson 6-1, 6-0 and Northeastern 6-1, 6-0 to advance to the semifinals.
“Those girls have been preparing for this all season,” Finfrock said. “My senior Ally went to district last year, and her main goal was to get back. She did it today, and she did it with class and maturity and by playing excellent tennis. And Sophia, who is only a sophomore, has come a long way. She’s really come into her own and found her role with Ally.”
That leaves Coning, who defeated Urbana’s Katelyn Asper 6-2, 6-1, Bellefontaine’s Cambryia Elkins 6-3, 6-0 and Springfield Catholic Central’s Julia Britto 6-0, 6-1 to earn a quarterfinal match against McNeil at approximately 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Sydney Laymon lost a preliminary match 6-0, 6-2 to Brookville’s Leena Kokladas before play began Tuesday.
Milton-Union’s other doubles team of senior Anna Brown and sophomore Caitlin Bushelman lost to Kenton Ridge 6-3, 6-3. And in singles play, Kaitlyn Antonides won her first-round match as Lehman’s Melanie Brunner withdrew with an injury, then she lost to Brookville’s Laura Bowen 6-0, 6-0. Mercedes Farmer defeated Lehman’s Alison Briggs 6-1, 6-2 before falling to Greenon’s McNeil 6-0, 6-0. And Rachel Rock had a first-round bye, falling 6-3, 7-5 to Urbana’s Haylee Johns.
“I thought all the girls did well,” Brumbaugh said. “I was proud of all my singles players. They had to face some tough players and handled it well, and they got the feeling of winning at the sectional. “All in all, my young team did well.”
For Lehman, Diana and Sarah Gibson defeated Springfield Shawnee 6-0, 6-2 before falling to Tippecanoe. Alex Read and Emma Simpson lost to Greenville 7-6 (4), 6-1 and Ann Pennaparra lost to Northeastern’s Alaina Owens 6-0, 6-0.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.