Anna Sanford of the Olentangy Orange High School girls tennis team had déjà vu when she saw her draw for the Division I state tournament.

Anna Sanford of the Olentangy Orange High School girls tennis team had déjà vu when she saw her draw for the Division I state tournament.

Sanford ended up with the same draw as a year ago when she defeated Aurora's Madelyn Gilley 6-2, 6-2 and lost to Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame's Sandy Niehaus, the eventual state champion, 6-0, 6-1 in a quarterfinal.

The Pioneers' sophomore got to show how much she had improved in a year, defeating Gilley 6-2, 6-1 in the first round before losing to Niehaus 6-2, 6-7 (3-7), 6-1 in a quarterfinal Oct. 21 at Elysium Tennis Center in Plain City.

"I was actually excited," Sanford said about the draw. "It gave me another opportunity to play Niehaus, who is such a great player."

"Although it was not ideal, we actually thought this is one of the better draws we could've gotten," coach Mark Latham said. "You have a nice warm-up match and then you face a challenging match and you are in the semifinals."

Niehaus went on to place second, losing to Cincinnati Ursuline Academy's Mehvish Safdar 6-1, 7-5 in the state final.

Although the end result was the same, Sanford showed Niehaus that she had improved since last year. After losing the first set, Sanford pulled out a second-set win before Niehaus took the third set.

"The game plan was to play my style of tennis," said Sanford, who finished 34-1 overall. "We made adjustments throughout the match."

"We had a game plan to take Niehaus' game apart," Latham said. "There were times when it would work and then Sandy changed her strategy. We would change something and Anna would get ahead, but give credit to Sandy for figuring that out."

Sanford won a sectional title by beating Liberty's Sydney Power 6-2, 6-0 and a district title by beating Dublin Jerome's Emma Stein 6-1, 6-3.

In the district tournament, which was held Oct. 14 and 15 at Hilliard Davidson, Sanford was joined by seniors Ayla Hood and Lindsay Spragg, who lost to eventual state quarterfinalists Ashley Thai and Lauren Thai of Hilliard Bradley 6-3, 6-1 in the first round. The Thais were 2010 Division II state champions.

The rest of the Pioneers lost in the Upper Arlington sectional Oct. 6 and 8. In doubles, junior Karlee Greene and sophomore Madison Wolfe lost to Worthington Kilbourne's Kelly Jiang and Claire Metka 6-1, 6-2 in the second round. In singles, freshman Jessica Phelps lost to Westerville Central's Hannah Thorp 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 and senior Sowmya Dandu lost to Central's Taylor Todd 6-0, 6-1, both in the first round.

Orange finished 10-6 overall and had a 6-1 record and 55 points in the OCC-Capital Division. The Pioneers placed second in the league behind New Albany (7-0, 68) and ahead of Bradley (5-2, 51), 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).

Sanford defeated Lauren Thai 6-0, 6-3 to win the first singles title. Greene and Wolfe lost to New Albany's Pryal Zhong and Emily Reddy 6-4, 6-0 to place second at second doubles.

Phelps lost to Big Walnut's Grace Coffman 8-0 to place third at second singles and Dandu defeated Big Walnut's Melissa Grooms 8-2 to place third at third singles. Spragg and Hood defeated Delaware's Alanna Spalsbury and Audrey Mungovan 8-0 to place third at first doubles.

Latham, whose team loses eight seniors, including Dandu, Hood and Spragg, expects next season's leaders to be Greene, Phelps, Sanford and Wolfe.

"Losing eight players to graduation is a tough hit for the program," Latham said. "We have some eighth-graders coming out of the middle school program, but it's going to be hard to replace what players like Lindsay and Ayla and the rest of the seniors brought to the program."