Hilliard Bradley High School freshman Lauren Thai learned some lessons in the Division II state tennis tournament last Friday and Saturday in Plain City.

Hilliard Bradley High School freshman Lauren Thai learned some lessons in the Division II state tennis tournament last Friday and Saturday in Plain City.

Thai learned that it's helpful to get off to a strong start and no hole is too much to climb out of.

Thai overcame a 2-1 deficit to defeat Toledo Ottawa Hills sophomore Drew Fillis 6-3, 6-1 in the first round and rallied from a 4-1 hole in the first set before losing to Waynesville junior Alyssa Ritchie 7-6, 6-1 in a quarterfinal. Ritchie went on to win the state championship with a 6-4, 5-7, 6-1 victory over Lexington sophomore Courtney Earnest.

"In my first match, I started out slow, but once I started getting my rhythm going, I started playing better and pulled that one out," said Thai, who finished the season 28-6. "In the second match, I was down and I started to find my rhythm and got closer and even took a 6-5 lead, but Ritchie is such a great player. That's why she's playing in the state final."

Once she closed out the first set, Ritchie had a psychological edge.

Players who won their first set were a combined 31-1 overall at the Division I and II state singles tournaments last Friday and Saturday.

"In both of her matches, Lauren started out slow but she came back quickly in the first set," coach Wayne Wookey said. "In both matches, she was able to pull her concentration up and raise her level of play."

Ritchey was making her second state tournament appearance after losing in a quarterfinal as a freshman. Outside of Earnest, the only other player to come close to Ritchie, was Thai.

"She was playing against a little more seasoned player, but she was hitting harder and deeper," Wookey said. "That was the best I've ever seen Lauren serve."

Thai's run was the perfect cap to the inaugural season for the Jaguars. Bradley finished 15-4 overall and was second in the OCC-Capital Division with a 5-1 record and 43 points as New Albany (6-0, 62 points) won. Olentangy Orange (4-2, 39), Big Walnut (2-4, 26), Watkins Memorial (2-4, 26), Delaware (2-4, 22) and Mount Vernon (0-6, 3) rounded out the rest of the league.

Sophomore Jill Runser became the school's first OCC champion, defeating New Albany's Dione Wu 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 to win the third-singles court in the OCC-Capital tournament Oct. 3 at Orange.

Lauren Thai placed second at first singles, losing to the Eagles' Maddie Kobelt 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 in the final. Ashley Thai, Lauren's cousin, was second at second singles, losing to New Albany's Meghan Buell 6-1, 6-0. Buell and Kobelt went on to win the Division I doubles championship.

Since Bradley was a first-year program, it had no seniors on the roster.

Lauren Thai and Ashley Thai, the school's two district qualifiers, and Runser are expected to return.

Junior Selina Clubbs and sophomore Abbie McGuire (first doubles) and sophomore Brooke Espenschied and freshmen Kwynn Herr and Kayla Bushee (who rotated at second doubles) also are expected back.

"Actually, we will still have a very young team next year," Wookey said. "This year has been the beginning of an excellent tennis tradition at Bradley. We will continue building this tradition in future years."

At a glance

BRADLEY

Record: 15-4 overall and 5-1 with 42 points (second) in OCC-Capital Division Seniors lost: None Key returnees: Kayla Bushee, Selina Clubbs, Brooke Espenschied, Kwynn Herr, Abbie McGuire, Jordyn Oliver, Jill Runser, Ashley Thai and Lauren Thai