The Dublin Jerome High School girls tennis team wanted to accomplish something special during the regular season after a 3-2 loss to Dublin Coffman on Sept. 4 ended its 50-match winning streak.
The Celtics achieved that goal by winning the first-place OCC tournament Sept. 28 at Pickerington Central. Jerome, which won the OCC-Cardinal Division title, scored 17 points to beat OCC-Central champion Upper Arlington (13), OCC-Capital champion New Albany (12) and OCC-Ohio champion Central (8).
"We'd been struggling coming into this tournament. ... We weren't having a terrible year, but by Dublin Jerome standards, we were definitely struggling," coach Tyler Stephen said. "We came into this knowing we had to turn it around, that we had to play our best tennis. There was no way we were going to come here and play our 'B' or 'C' game and have any sort of success. This is by far the best we've played."
Ellee Bullock (first singles), Rhiannon James (second singles), Maddy Easdale and Sophia Gomez (first doubles) and Stephanie George and Courtney Go (second doubles) each went 2-0 to place first.
"These girls really stepped up today," Stephen said. "The four girls that are new on varsity played their best tennis today and we needed to. That's the bottom line. They turned it around in a big way, and I hope we can take this momentum and move it forward."
Jerome, which beat Worthington Kilbourne 5-0 on Sept. 25 and Bexley 5-0 on Sept. 30, was 15-2 overall before facing Olentangy Orange in an Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I district semifinal on Oct. 1.
The Celtics will compete in a Division I sectional Thursday, Oct. 3, and Saturday, Oct. 5, at Hilliard Davidson, with the top four finishers in singles and doubles at each sectional advancing to district Oct. 11 and 12 at Davidson.
Bullock and James are seeded first and third, respectively, in singles and Easdale and Gomez are seeded third in doubles.
Also competing at sectional will be Emily Neal in singles and George and Go in doubles.
Last year, Bullock teamed with Caitlyn Merzbacher to place fourth at state. Merzbacher is no longer attending Jerome, as her family moved out of the state. James was a district qualifier last season.
"We have a lot of new girls who are still going through the learning-curve process, so if we can get our four seeded players through to district, that would be good," Stephen said. "Our goal is to get first and second in singles to set ourselves up to do well at district, and it would be nice if Easdale and Gomez can finish in the top two as well."
Shamrocks set for sectional tourney
Coffman will compete in the Division I sectional Thursday, Oct. 3, and Saturday, Oct. 5, at Pickerington Central.
Amber Lee and Ashley Tan are seeded second in doubles. Also competing are Victoria Fan, Skylar Moore and Crissi Tzagournis in singles and Jessica Flynn and Annie Yang in doubles. Last year, Tan was a state qualifier in singles, losing in the first round, and Lee (singles) and Tzagournis and Yang (doubles) were district qualifiers.
"Amber and Ashley make a great team," coach Brett Hundertpfund said. "Both are very talented and, being a senior, Amber brings that extra experience to the team that is always nice to have. They have the potential to do very well, but the most important thing is not to look past sectionals.
"A lot of the top players around the area are playing doubles this year, so I am also excited for my singles players. They will have to play tough competition to get through, but I believe they can do it."
Coffman, which lost to New Albany 4-1 on Sept. 23, was 9-5 overall before playing Pickerington Central on Oct. 1.
The Shamrocks finished second (17) in the second-place OCC tournament Sept. 28 behind Olentangy Orange (18) and ahead of host Gahanna (5) and Scioto (4).
Tzagournis (third singles) and Fan and Moore (second doubles) went to 2-0 to place first and Tan (first singles) and Lee (second singles) each went 1-1 and placed second.
"Orange was the team we knew we were going to have to battle for the top spot and it came down to the wire," Hundertpfund said. "I was proud of how my girls played. We gave it our best and that's our goal every time we step out on the court."
Irish heading to UA sectional
Scioto will compete in the Division I sectional Thursday, Oct. 3, and Saturday, Oct. 5, at Upper Arlington.
Hrunya Ravindran, Susma Rai and Sugamya Juvvigunta are playing singles, with Sunanda Chilukuri and Shelby Powell forming one doubles team and Monica Xu and Cynthia Pathmathasan comprising the other.
Rai went 1-1 to place second at third singles in the second-place OCC tournament.
"Our No. 1 player (Prachi Bansal) is not going to play at sectional, so we're going to use a makeshift lineup there," coach Mike Wrigley said. "We're going to focus more on trying to win our dual matches the rest of the way since we won't have our normal lineup for sectional."
The Irish beat DeSales 5-0 on Sept. 26 and Big Walnut 4-1 on Sept. 30 and were 9-6 overall before playing Pickerington North on Oct. 1 and Kilbourne on Oct. 2.