Serve will be key to state success for Bradley's Thai
Senior Ashley Thai of the Hilliard Bradley High School girls tennis team has a powerful serve that has been clocked at 101 mph.
Thai said her serve will need to be accurate and effective for her to be competitive in the Division I state tournament, which will be held Friday, Oct. 19, at Ohio State and Saturday, Oct. 20, at Hilliard Davidson.
"My goal is to win at least one match at state, and to succeed there, I need to make sure my serve is on and that I have a positive attitude," she said. "My first serve is probably my biggest strength, so I have to get a lot of first serves in because it really affects the way my opponents return the ball to me. And when I don't make my first serve, I'll need to put a lot of spin on the ball on my second serve so that it isn't easy to return."
Thai will be making her state tournament debut as a singles player. She and cousin Lauren Thai combined to win the Division II doubles titles as sophomores, and they reached a Division I state quarterfinal last year.
Ashley Thai went 3-1 and placed third in singles in the district tournament Oct. 12 and 13 at Davidson. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to state.
She opened with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Olentangy Liberty's Alexia Meyer before beating Chillicothe's Taylor Sprouse 6-1, 6-1 in a state qualifier.
Thai then lost to Dublin Jerome's Lauren Bellinger 3-6, 6-0, 6-2 in a semifinal and beat Dublin Coffman's Ashley Tan 6-2, 6-2 in a consolation final.
Thai said she was inspired by her cousin, who qualified for district but couldn't compete because of a knee injury.
"Lauren's part of my family and she should have been here, so I needed to play well to represent my family at district," Ashley said. "My serve and net game were definitely on in my first two matches."
Lauren Thai injured her right knee while playing football with friends Oct. 1.
"It was a freak accident," she said. "After I caught the ball, I took a step forward and I heard a crackling sound in my knee. I fell to the ground and when I got back up, I couldn't put any weight on it."
A few days later, her knee was still sore, but she managed to win three matches in the sectional at Davidson to qualify for district. She then chose to rest her knee and default her next two matches en route to finishing fourth.
On Oct. 8, Thai met with a surgeon and an MRI revealed she has a torn anterior cruciate ligament, torn meniscus cartilage, a sprained medial collateral ligament and a bruised tibia.
"When I went to the (emergency room) they told me I had dislocated my patella and that it was just going to be sore for a while," she said. "I played on one leg at sectional and I was hoping I'd be feeling better by district, but we went to an orthopedic surgeon after my mom noticed that I had bad bruising and swelling around my knee. I'm really disappointed that I'm not able to participate in the district and state tournaments, but I'm trying to maintain a positive outlook."
All four Wildcats lose in first round
Davidson junior sisters Laura and Natalie Hagy opened the Division I district tournament with a 6-2, 6-1 loss in doubles to Upper Arlington's Beniva Ganther and Andi Smart.
"Overall, it was an honor and a great experience to get to play with some of the best players in the state," Natalie Hagy said. "We definitely learned a lot of things about what we need to improve on. We need to improve our movement and we need to hit shots with better timing.
"I think we had a really strong season overall, and we're looking forward to kicking butt next year."
Juniors Chloe Shevlin and Ella Wilson opened district doubles play with a 6-0, 6-1 loss to Watterson's Lauren Ghidotti and Katie Shepherd.
"That Watterson team is really tough, but Chloe and Ella played their hearts out and played well against them," Natalie Hagy said.