Anna and Alle Sanford had been dreaming of this moment for several years.
In the only season they could play doubles together for Olentangy Orange High School, the sisters won the Division I state championship, defeating Alexa Abele and Maggie Skwara of Cincinnati Sycamore 6-0, 6-2 in the final Oct. 19 at Elysium Tennis Center in Plain City.
Anna is a senior and Alle is a freshman.
"Since we aren't in the same age group (in the USTA), we don't have the opportunity to play together, so we began thinking about this a real long time ago," Anna said. "We've been practicing for this for over a year because we knew this is something we've wanted to do since we were little."
"This was our only chance to play together and it's special because we get to represent our school, teammates and community as well as our coaches," Alle said.
The Sanfords lost just two games at state, in their final set.
"I'm just so happy because we had a lot of our extended family there who got to see us play for the first time," said Anna, who has committed to Ohio State. "We had good support and it was just such a fun time. It was worth all the hard work we put into it. It was a dream and we made it happen."
The Sanfords defeated Toledo Notre Dame Academy's Alicia Nahhas and Teagan McNamara 6-0, 6-0 in a semifinal. They also rolled in the first two rounds Oct. 18 at Ohio State, beating Rocky River's Alex Riegelsberger and Lucy Grierson 6-0, 6-0 and Canfield's Hannah Cianciola and Askley Kaleel 6-0, 6-0.
"They executed flawlessly for the large part," coach Matt Rutherford said. "In a few of the longer points, they were able to come up big. I think as (the postseason) went on, they got better. It's one thing to practice together for this and it's another thing to compete. ...
"I'm also happy for them because I think they finally started to feel blessed and fortunate these last two days and they began to take in the entire experience. They've wanted this for 10 or 12 years now. Anna started taking lessons from (assistant coach Doug DiRisario) when she was 5 and Alle started at 2. They are a great representation of hard work and they also represent our school and community so very well."
It was the third state appearance for Anna, who was ineligible to play last season because she competed in a USTA match on Labor Day in violation of OHSAA rules.
She competed in singles as a freshman and sophomore with similar results. She went 1-1 both seasons, with both losses to Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame's Sandy Niehaus, who won the title in 2010 and was runner-up in 2011.
"I'm very fortunate to have been able to play with my sister this season and to learn from her and grow," Alle said. "She helped me feel welcome and all of our teammates have been very supportive. It was a great experience."
The Sanfords' postseason also included a district title Oct. 12 at Hilliard Davidson, as they defeated Pickerington Central sisters Isis and Kyah Thomas 6-0, 6-2 in the final.
Also competing for Orange were senior Madison Wolfe and junior Jessica Phelps, who lost to New Albany's Jane Haffer and Alex Cash 6-4, 7-6 with a state berth on the line.
Also playing in the postseason for the Pioneers, in the Davidson sectional, were sophomore Sruti Chigurupati, sophomore Carly Vroom and freshman Mary Damko in singles. Damko was playing for junior Madison Riley, who was injured.
The Pioneers finished 12-5 overall and 6-1 (second) in the OCC-Capital Division, behind New Albany (7-0) and ahead of Olentangy (5-2), Big Walnut (4-3), Worthington Kilbourne (3-4), Delaware (2-5), Mount Vernon (1-6) and Franklin Heights (0-7).
In the second-place OCC tournament, Orange won (18) ahead of Dublin Coffman (17), Gahanna (5) and Dublin Scioto (4).
Liberty to bring back sectional lineup
Liberty sent four players to the district tournament last season led by senior state-qualifier Sydney Power, who played just five matches this year before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury Aug. 26.
"It was a tough situation because she is our only senior and was at the top of our (singles) lineup," coach Christine Kaeding said. "So we had to move young players around into positions they weren't comfortable in. But it went well. We had everyone doing just a little more."
Despite the loss of Power, the Patriots had five players advance from the Reynoldsburg sectional to district.
Sophomore Alexia Meyer was a sectional runner-up and reached a state-qualifying singles match at district before losing to Watterson's Lauren Ghidotti 6-2, 6-3.
In doubles, Liberty's two entries -- freshman Sidney Reineke and sophomore Avivah Wang and sophomore Lizzie Radkiewicz and junior Sonia Chhabria -- lost in the first round at district.
Reineke and Wang lost 6-0, 6-0 to the Sanfords.
"Sidney and Avivah were excited and thrilled to play the Sanford sisters," Kaeding said. "It's not often you get the chance to play against that caliber of tennis."
Also in the sectional lineup were sophomore Anna Delaney and junior Rachel Carline. Both won their first match in singles before losing their second.
Liberty finished 10-8 overall and 5-2 (third) in the OCC-Central, behind Upper Arlington (7-0) and Coffman (6-1) and ahead of Davidson (4-3), Thomas Worthington (3-4), Marysville (2-5), Westland (1-6) and Central Crossing (0-7).
The Patriots won the third-place OCC tournament ahead of Reynoldsburg, Orange and Westerville Central as Meyer (first singles), Delaney (second singles), Chhabria and Radkiewicz (first doubles) and Wang and Reineke (second doubles) won titles.
"I am thrilled with the season we had and very excited for next season," Kaeding said. "With everyone returning, we could have a big season."
Braves to return all but one player
Sophomore Bri Brdicka and five others from the regular-season starting lineup should return to lead Olentangy next season.
Brdicka was the team's lone district qualifier and lost in the first round after being a sectional runner-up at Pickerington Central.
"I was very pleased with the season Bri had and I also was happy with all of the girls," coach Jeff Luxenberger said. "We had lots of players step up their game. We were very young overall and the girls became more consistent, despite the fact we dealt with some injuries late in the season. We still finished 10-9 overall (and 5-2 in the OCC-Capital) even though we lost some matches at the end of the season we should've won."
The team's lone senior starter was Grace Cramer, who went 1-1 in singles at sectional. Senior Eileen Yee also went 1-1 in singles while replacing junior Pallavi Mannava, who was unable to compete.
In doubles, juniors Madison Luse and Jackie Vouis went 1-1 and juniors Namrata Arya and Elyssa Ackerman lost their opener.
"The future is very bright because we've got six regulars back and an eighth-grader, Kathleen Jones, coming up who is a USTA-ranked player in the Midwest," Luxenberger said.