Not long after arriving at the Division I state tournament Oct. 21 at Elysium Tennis Center, juniors Ashley Thai and Lauren Thai of the Hilliard Bradley High School girls tennis team realized the level of competition had been raised.

Not long after arriving at the Division I state tournament Oct. 21 at Elysium Tennis Center, juniors Ashley Thai and Lauren Thai of the Hilliard Bradley High School girls tennis team realized the level of competition had been raised.

A year after winning the Division II state doubles championship, the cousins lost to Springboro's Julie Brockman and Aundrea Busse 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 in a state quarterfinal.

"I remember taking a look around and going, 'This is definitely not the same as last year,'" Ashley Thai said. "We knew it was going to be tough from the beginning, but we may have underestimated our competition."

"Once we started missing (shots), we got rattled a little bit," Lauren Thai said. "(Brockman and Busse) started playing better and things just went down hill from there."

The Thais' exit prevented an all-Central Ohio state semifinal on Oct. 22. Dublin Jerome's Lauren Bellinger and Sarah Stein defended their state title, defeating Watterson's Lauren Ghidotti and Katie Shepherd 0-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) in the final. Upper Arlington's Audrey Berger and Elaine Cloern beat Brockman and Busse 6-1, 6-3 in the consolation match to place third.

The Thais had advanced to the state tournament, which concluded Oct. 22 and was moved from Ohio State to the indoor courts at Elysium Tennis Center in Plain City because of bad weather, after winning a sectional championship Oct. 6 and 8 at Reynoldsburg and placing third in the district tournament Oct. 14 and 15 at Hilliard Davidson.

The Thais defeated Westlake's Michelle Djohan and Julia Dunbar - the runners-up in the Northeast District - 6-2, 6-1 in the first round at state.

"We were pretty confident after our first set," Lauren said. "We had some nervous bugs in the first few games, but we fought through those and got settled into the match. After that, we got rolling and settled into our game. We were playing how we were supposed to play."

In the quarterfinal match, the Thais controlled play in the first set and led 2-1 in the second set. However, Brockman and Busse won 10 of the next 11 games and held a 5-0 lead in the third set.

The Thais won three consecutive games in the third set and held off five match points before falling.

"(Springboro) hit some good defensive lobs and we didn't put away the ball as well as we needed to," said coach Ben Lilly, whose team finished 13-6 overall. "They covered the court well, played some good defensive tennis and hit some good shots when they needed to."

"We were down in that third set and we looked at each other and said, 'We have the state title (last year). We can't go down like this,'" Ashley Thai said. "Obviously, losing is tough, but hopefully we will grow from this match and improve for next year."

The Thais were the only Bradley players to make it out of sectional play. In doubles, seniors Abbie McGuire and Jill Runser lost to Gahanna's Emily Merickel and Rachel Zink 6-2, 3-6 6-3 in a quarterfinal.

In singles, sophomore Taylor Ruby lost to Chillicothe's Parisa Bennett 6-3, 6-1 in the second round, senior Vendela Clark lost to New Albany's Cristina DiLorenzo 6-0, 6-0 in the first round and sophomore Bailey Decker lost to Chillicothe's Liann Van Volkinburg 6-2, 6-0 in the first round.

The Jaguars went 5-2 in OCC-Capital Division dual matches and finished the league tournament Oct. 4 at home with 51 points, placing third behind New Albany (7-0, 68) and Olentangy Orange (6-1, 55) and ahead of Big Walnut (4-3, 31), Delaware (3-4, 24), Watkins Memorial (2-5, 21), Mount Vernon (1-6, 12) and Franklin Heights (0-7, 6).

In the league tournament, Ashley Thai placed first at second singles, Lauren Thai placed second at first singles, Ruby placed second at third singles, McGuire and Runser placed second at first doubles and Clark and freshman Haley Jackson placed fourth at second doubles.

The Jaguars will lose Clark, McGuire and Runser to graduation but expect to return Decker, Jackson, Ruby and the Thais next season.

"The seniors brought a lot of leadership and focus to the team," Lilly said. "They were focused on what our goals were and worked hard to achieve them. They put in a lot of work outside of practice."