Sophomore Alexis Burkhalter and freshman Katie Zerbi were determined not to let their first experience at the Division II state girls tennis tournament feel overwhelming.
On Oct. 18 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, the duo became the first Wellington players to earn a victory at state since 2014, when Aashika Katapadi won her first-round singles match before losing in the second round.
Burkhalter and Zerbi, who went on to place fourth Oct. 19, also became the first doubles team at the school to win a match at state since 1989 when Jennifer Beahm and Julie Beahm captured the championship in Class A/AA.
Wellington last had a doubles team at state in 2002, but Ciaca McDermott and Bekah Allen lost in the first round.
"What I think helped them is just that they really started talking and moving well together," coach Rebecca Hinze said. "They really pumped each other up."
Burkhalter and Zerbi opened state by edging Cincinnati Wyoming's Peyton Osha and Sydney Evans 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-4) and then beat Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown's Ally Mills and Alex Wolf 6-3, 6-4.
Then on Oct. 19, Burkhalter and Zerbi lost to eventual champions Hayley Hirsch and Morgan Coburn of Cincinnati Indian Hill 6-1, 6-0 in a semifinal and fell to Dayton Oakwood's Sophie Russell and Natalie Connelly 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), 6-4 in the consolation match.
"I just know we really wanted it and I think we wanted it more than our nerves bothered us," Burkhalter said. "It's been fun."
Burkhalter and Zerbi beat Worthington Christian's sister duo of Abby Mayotte and Meghan Mayotte in both the Columbus School for Girls sectional final Oct. 5 and the district final Oct. 12 at Columbus Academy to earn central Ohio's lone state-qualifying berth.
During the regular season, Burkhalter usually was at first singles and Zerbi played second singles as the Jaguars went 14-3 overall and placed second in the MSL-Ohio Division at 6-1, behind Academy (7-0).
"It's very cool (being at state)," Zerbi said. "I've never been here so it's obviously all new, but we got to play in the grandstand, which was awesome. Even realizing we made it to the second round is very cool, and we got to play where the pros play."
The Jaguars are losing only one senior in Camille Olmstead, who teamed with sophomore Olivia Vegas to reach the district tournament in doubles.
Wellington's other district competitor was sophomore Lauren Okoye, who lost in the first round in singles.
Freshmen Cassidy Chenelle and Kate Thompson each reached the second round of the sectional in singles.
Others eligible to return include sophomore Ella Marshall and freshmen Lilliana Adkinson, Katie Kuttrus and Lilly Thompson.
Girls soccer team reaches district semi
The fifth-seeded girls soccer team was 9-8 before playing second-seeded Columbus Academy in a Division III district semifinal Oct. 22.
The Jaguars upset fourth-seeded Fairbanks 2-1 in overtime Oct. 19 in a second-round game, as Mary Morosky scored both goals to give her 21 on the season.
The semifinal winner faces top-seeded Grandview or third-seeded Worthington Christian in a district final Saturday, Oct. 26, at a site to be announced.
The district champion plays Seaman North Adams, Winchester Eastern, Albany Alexander or Lynchburg-Clay in a regional semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 29, at a site to be announced.
Boys soccer team battles in tourney
The second-seeded boys soccer team opened the Division III district tournament Oct. 21 by winning 12-0 over 19th-seeded West Jefferson in a second-round home game.
Wellington won its sixth game in a row and improved to 12-2-3 before playing ninth-seeded Columbus International in a district semifinal Oct. 23.
The winner plays seventh-seeded Northridge, eighth-seeded Tree of Life, or 13th-seeded Fairbanks in a district final Saturday, Oct. 26, at a site to be announced.
The district champion plays Magnolia Sandy Valley, Berlin Hiland, Coshocton or Zanesville Rosecrans in a regional semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 30, at a site to be announced.
Boys runners end season at district
The first-year boys cross country team finished last (318 points) in the 11-team Division III, district 2 meet Oct. 19 at Hilliard Darby behind champion Mount Gilead (22) to finish the season.
Freshman Eric Albers led the way at district with a 58th-place finish in 20 minutes, 57.5 seconds. He was followed by juniors Kiran Mokadam (63rd, 22:12) and Victor Thompson (64th, 22:46.9), sophomore Gavin Ray (65th, 22:47.6), freshman Vinay Garg (68th, 23:18.5), junior Julius Skestos (69th, 23:21.3) and sophomore Zachary Ware (71st, 24:26.7).