Despite reaching the Division II state singles final each of the past two years, Sydni Ratliff was uncertain if she wanted to return for her junior season with the Columbus Academy girls tennis team.
Ratliff plays the sport year-round and competes in United States Tennis Association events, which forces her to miss the early part of the prep season.
She decided to compete for the Vikings and has her sights set on capturing her first individual state title.
"It was a tough decision whether to play (prep tennis) or not again because the matches aren't super competitive," Ratliff said. "I don't get a lot out of them and then you go play state and you play some of the best girls in Ohio, so it's kind of hard. It's hard for me because I don't get good hitting every day like I'm used to in the summer.
"I came back because I want to win state. I messed up a little bit the last two years."
Ratliff lost to Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown's Nicole Gillinov in the state final both times. Gillinov is a senior.
The state tournament will be held Oct. 18 and 19 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
Ratliff also has the Vikings in contention for another berth in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division II state team tournament.
Academy will play Gran-ville in a regional semifinal Monday, Sept. 23, with the winner playing Wellington or Columbus School for Girls in the final on a date to be determined. The regional champion advances to state Oct. 20 at Reynoldsburg.
The Vikings competed in their second consecutive state team tournament last season, defeating Dayton Oakwood 3-1 in the third-place match after losing to Hathaway Brown 3-0 in a semifinal.
Although she has returned to the team, Ratliff has been limited because she is fighting a lower-back injury. Normally a first-singles player, she also has seen action at first doubles, including teaming with Sophia Sommer to win 6-3, 6-2 in a 5-0 victory over CSG on Sept. 12.
Ratliff is expected to move back to singles full time for the postseason.
"This has made us pretty flexible," coach Tom Haddow said. "We're learning about different things we would have never done. We're using different lineups we never would have used."
Academy was 8-3 overall before playing Olentangy on Sept. 16 and 4-0 in the MSL-Ohio Division before facing Whitehall on Sept. 17.
Along with Ratliff and Sommer, other winners against CSG were Alex Graham 6-0, 6-3 at first singles, Lauren Motta 6-1, 6-1 at second singles, Anna Chang 6-4, 6-1 at third singles and Carolyn Tsung and Naomi Chen 6-1, 6-0 at second doubles.
"We have to shore up a couple spots, but this is a pretty solid team," Haddow said. "Obviously, it's big having Sydni back. It lets everyone slide into their natural position. Her back is a little tight, so hopefully that will get healed."
Girls volleyball team splits weekend matches
The girls volleyball team was 8-4 overall before playing Westerville North on Sept. 16 and 4-1 in the MSL-Ohio before facing Worthington Christian on Sept. 17.
The Vikings defeated Buckeye Valley 23-25, 25-13, 25-18, 27-25 on Sept. 12 in league action.
Academy split a pair of matches Sept. 14, defeating Mansfield Christian 25-7, 25-6 and losing to host Fredericktown 25-15, 25-17.
"What was most disappointing was I didn't feel Fredericktown was that much better than we are," coach John Kelley said. "We just didn't play our game. Not to take anything away from Fredericktown, they're a good team, but I really thought it would be a much more competitive match.
"I've always told the team that there's no shame in losing to a better team if you play your best. I can't say we did that (Sept. 14)."
Soccer teams playing well
The girls soccer team was 5-1-1 overall before playing Johnstown on Sept. 16 and is 3-0 in the MSL-Ohio.
Katie Schiano scored and goalkeeper Sophie Spolter had two saves in a 1-0 win over Zanesville Rosecrans on Sept. 14.
The Vikings tied Hartley at 2 on Sept. 10. Olivia Archibald and Evie Gee each scored and Spolter had three saves.
Archibald and Emma Belford each scored in a 2-1 win over Wellington on Sept. 7. Spolter had two saves.
The boys team is 2-2-4 overall with ties in four of its last five games. The Vikings are 1-0-3 in the MSL-Ohio.
Academy tied Wellington at 1 on Sept. 11 as Charlie Mueller scored and goalie Luke Budzik had eight saves.
The Vikings tied Bexley at 1 on Sept. 7, with Jonah Houston scoring and Budzik making six saves.
Academy also tied Jonathan Alder at 1 on Sept. 14.
Below are the coming schedules for the Academy cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 21 -- Tiger Invitational at Pickerington Central
Sept. 19 -- Marysville at The Lakes
Sept. 21 -- Upper Arlington Classic at Scioto Country Club
*Sept. 19 -- Bexley at Blacklick Woods
Sept. 23 or 25 -- Division II sectional at Blacklick Woods or Mill Creek. The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Sept. 30 at Darby Creek.
Sept. 19 -- At Westerville South
Sept. 21 -- Home vs. Bloom-Carroll
*Sept. 25 -- At Whitehall
Sept. 21 -- Home vs. West Liberty-Salem
*Sept. 25 -- Home vs. Columbus School for Girls
*Sept. 19 -- Home vs. Buckeye Valley
Sept. 23 -- At Granville in Division II OTCA regional semifinal. Winner plays Columbus School for Girls or Wellington in regional final on date to be determined.
*Sept. 24 -- At Worthington Christian
*Sept. 19 -- Home vs. Grandview. The Vikings defeated the Bobcats 25-20, 25-13, 25-12 on Aug. 27.
Sept. 21 -- Home vs. Madison Christian and Northridge