West Holmes

Lady Knights keep rolling as tennis sectionals draw near

Erin Stitzlein (left) shows off the guns and Kate Rodhe pose for a great photo after their tennis match with Clear Fork. --- Dave Mast Photo

As the regular season winds down and the second season gets ready to hit high gear, the West Holmes Lady Knights continue to roll through the season in solid fashion. The team’s most recent conquest was yet another 5-0 win, this one coming at the expense of Clear Fork Tuesday, Sept. 20.

Erin Stitzlein got things rolling early, winning the first singles match 6-1, 6-0 versus Mallory Arnold. Kate Rodhe got the job done at second singles, where she easily trounced McKenna Milks 6-0, 6-1, while third singles was a bit closer. Lady Knight Samara Gallion defeated Regan Brokaw 6-2, 6-3.

The first doubles duo of Dorita Phillips and Sabryn Cutlip earned a solid 6-3, 6-1 victory over Erin Conrad and Abby Klaus, while the second doubles game proved to be the most exciting of the evening.

Lady Knights Sarah Tennefoss and Ally Taylor had to go three sets, but eventually pulled out a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 win over Annie Dubler and Laura Kelley.

The win advanced West Holmes’ overall record to 14-3, while bettering the Ohio Cardinal Conference record to 4-2.

“Clear Fork has a much improved team,” said West Holmes coach Jason Otto. “That second doubles was a fun match, a close match.”

West Holmes has a key Ohio Cardinal Conference match-up with Wooster Thursday, Sept. 22, and will then put the wraps on the regular season with a match at Cambridge the following week, before the league postseason tournament and then sectional tournament starts the important second season.

While Lexington and Ashland are one and two atop the league standings as is almost always the case, the Lady Knights and Generals will duke it out for the coveted third-place spot.

Having carved out a 14-3 record, it has been a hugely successful campaign for the Lady Knights, and Otto said while they lost to both OCC leaders, their match with a tough Dover team was won by the Tornadoes 3-2 in a tight battle.

The key now for West Holmes will be to figure out what it wants to do come tournament time. Otto said Stitzlein and Rodhe, who have played singles almost all season, will team up for one of the doubles spots, in hopes of advancing to district play. He also noted that Cutlip, who has been at second singles most of the season, is trying to figure out what give her the best chance of moving on, whether it be in singles or doubles play.

Dover is obviously going to be the toughest competition for us in sectionals,” said Otto. “They have a lot of talent, and it will depend a lot on whether he plays his singles players at singles or does what we are going to do and load up at doubles.”

Otto said the need to move singles players into the world of doubles is because there are some terrific singles players at the district level. The goal is to try to figure out the best way to earn a state berth, and that is the cat-and-mouse game coaches play as they situate players for the sectional tournament.

Last season Rodhe teamed up with then-senior Natalie Molnar to earn a state berth in doubles, while Stitzlein and former Lady Knight Cassie Mohler teamed up to get within one match of State.

Molnar and Rodhe earned a state berth with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 win over Southeast Unioto, while Stitzlein and Molnar fell in the state-qualifying match by a 6-3, 6-3 count to the team from Logan Elm.

“We have been fortunate to get a lot of kids out of sectionals, and we have had a good number of kids get to state the past few years,” said Otto. “And doubles play is wide open this year, so we do have some high hopes.”

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