Ashley Thai of the Hilliard Bradley High School girls tennis team walked away from the state tournament on Oct. 23 at Hilliard Davidson as one of the top players in the state after she and her cousin, Lauren Thai, won the Division II doubles championship with a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy's Dominique Baxter and Kassie Faugno.

Ashley Thai of the Hilliard Bradley High School girls tennis team walked away from the state tournament on Oct. 23 at Hilliard Davidson as one of the top players in the state after she and her cousin, Lauren Thai, won the Division II doubles championship with a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy's Dominique Baxter and Kassie Faugno.

A week later, the sophomore was just another face in the crowd when she competed with seven other members of the Racquet Club of Columbus in the USTA 18-and-under Junior Team Tennis National Championships held Oct. 28-30 in Surprise, Ariz.

"It was a great experience," Thai said. "I've never played so many amazing players before. It was great to represent the Midwest."

The Racquet Club of Columbus placed seventh, losing to the Northern 1 region team 30-29 and defeating the Northern 2 region team 31-23 on Oct. 30. The Eastern region team defeated the Texas region team 33-24 for the title.

The Columbus team went 2-2 in the Flight 2 preliminaries, defeating the Northern 2 region team 40-20 and the Middle States team 37-20 and losing to the Florida team 37-21 and the Southern California team 40-13.

Thai was joined on the Columbus team by Watterson's Olivia Ott, Westerville North's Abby Lewis, Hartley's Rachael Morales, Columbus Academy's John Hendrix, Gahanna's Jesse Shivener, Thomas Worthington's Casey Cempre and Dublin Coffman graduate and Ohio State freshman Daiki Kumasegawa.

It was Cempre's first trip to Arizona.

"Usually, I just go to Chicago or Indianapolis for tournaments, so going to Arizona was a lot of fun," Cempre said.

Racquet Club of Columbus qualified for the national tournament by winning a district championship last July and a 15-team Midwest sectional tournament last August. It is the second area team to represent the Midwest in Surprise.

Scarborough Tennis and Fitness Club placed 13th out of 16 teams at the 14-U Advanced USTA Junior Team Tennis National Championships held Oct. 21-24.

Thai said each region of the country seems to produce a different style of player.

"When you're playing the people from the South, they're used to playing outdoors and so they're a lot more aggressive and hit harder," she said.

"Southern California has these hard-core players who hit everything harder," Cempre said. "Florida has more of the classic style of players who keep everything in play."

Cempre said playing a team tournament is more comparable to playing in high school than individual tournaments are.

"When you win, you're more excited because you have other people to share it with," Cempre said. "If you lose, you're around other people and it's not as big of a deal."

Thomas Worthington boys and girls coach Tyler Stephen believes Cempre will benefit from having played in the national tournament.

"I think it will help him a lot," Stephen said. "He's going against the top players in the country. He's not going to see guys like that match-in, match-out during the high school season. It'll help him develop as a player."