As the Upper Arlington High School girls tennis team prepared to play in the OTCA Division I state team tournament last Sunday at Hilliard Davidson, coach Shaun Stamps wondered how much more senior Niki Flower could take.
As the Upper Arlington High School girls tennis team prepared to play in the OTCA Division I state team tournament Oct. 24 at Hilliard Davidson, coach Shaun Stamps wondered how much more senior Niki Flower could take.
Hours after her 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 loss to Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame's Sandy Niehaus in the state singles championship last Saturday, Flower was taken to Riverside Hospital and given IV fluids to treat dehydration.
Flower, however, returned to the lineup and pulled out two wins at first singles to help the Golden Bears defeat Cincinnati Ursuline Academy 3-1 in a semifinal and Westlake 3-1 in the final to capture their 14th state team title.
"I worried if she eventually was going to hit a wall," Stamps said. "Niki is a true example of a team player. She has a lot of heart and she always, always finishes strong."
"I definitely had to overcome my fear of needles to help us win," Flower said. "I knew this was my last day of high school tennis, so I put all I had into it."
The OTCA semifinal match was an almost identical replay of last year's state singles final for Flower. She held off Ursuline Academy's Komal Safdar 7-6 (7-2) 6-1 last Sunday. Last year, she defeated Safdar 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 in the state singles final.
Sophomores Grace Buse and Elaine Cloern defeated Ursuline Academy's Annie Sabo and Colleen Johns 6-0, 6-2 at first doubles and senior Julia Melvin and junior Carolina Pema defeated the Lions' Maggie Egan and Morgan Main 6-2, 6-2 at second doubles to propel the Bears into the final.
In the championship match against Westlake, Flower defeated Lauren Golick 6-0, 6-0 at first singles, Buse and Cloern beat Julia Dunbar and Gina Boaklini 6-0, 6-3 at first doubles and Melvin and Pema defeated Michelle Djohan and Stephanie McAlister 6-1, 6-1 at second doubles.
It was Flower's second win over Golick in 24 hours. In a state semifinal last Saturday, she held off Golick 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.
Flower, an Ohio State recruit who finished the season 24-1, avoided a three-set match during the regular season but pulled out a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 win over Olentangy Orange's Anna Sanford in a district final on Oct. 16, in addition to her battles with Golick and Niehaus.
"She didn't miss many shots," Flower said of her match against Niehaus. "I wanted to be aggressive with her and get (the ball) out of her hitting zone, but she came up with some big shots at key moments."
The Bears qualified six of seven players to district held Oct. 15-16 at Davidson, but Flower was the only one to advance to state.
Buse and Cloern, who lost to Watterson's Olivia Ott and Courtney Brown 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, and Melvin and Pema, who lost to Dublin Jerome's Lydia Utkin and Cailey Easdale 6-3, 6-1, were eliminated in a quarterfinal. Also in singles, senior Adrienne Jenq lost to Olentangy Liberty's Sydney Power 6-1, 6-4 in the first round.
UA, which went 7-0 in the OCC-Central Division dual matches and won all five courts at the league tournament on Oct. 2, finished with 86 of a possible 87 points to win its 22nd consecutive league championship.
Dublin Coffman (6-1, 86) placed second, followed by Worthington Kilbourne (5-2, 47), Davidson (4-3, 47), Thomas Worthington (3-4, 38), Hilliard Darby (2-5, 26), Westland (1-6, 11) and Central Crossing (0-7, 3).
The Bears lose four seniors in Flower, Jenq, Melvin and Dani Smart but expect to return Buse, Cloern and Pema. Cloern and Pema were state qualifiers in 2009 in doubles.
"We worked really hard for this all season," Melvin said.
"I feel like we've improved all four years and to end it with a state championship is very exciting."
At a glance
•Record: 18-0 overall, 7-0 (first) in OCC-Cardinal
•Seniors lost: Niki Flower, Adrienne Jenq, Julia Melvin and Dani Smart
•Key returnees: Grace Buse, Elaine Cloern and Caroline Pema