MASON — There’s nothing like a pep talk from a coach to spark a struggling athlete.
Beavercreek sophomore Julia Bays found that out during her first-round match at the Division I district tennis tournament Oct. 12 at the Lindner Family Tennis Center.
Down a set and trailing 4-1 in the second, Bays heeded some words of advice from assistant coach Shannon Young and methodically began producing solid returns and forehand winners to claw back in the match and upset Cincinnati sectional champion Brooklyn Bowen of Princeton, 1-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-1.
“Coach Young helped me pull through it by (telling me to) stay patient and staying calm,” Bays said. “I knew I had all the shots, I just used them and played smart. It felt amazing.”
It was the first postseason tournament for Bays, who went 10-9 as Beavercreek’s No. 1 singles player during the regular season. Despite getting some experience at the sectional, Bays admitted the district tournament — being held at a highly regarded professional facility — was a tad intimidating.
“I had a ton of nerves,” she said. “You want to get to state. It’s nerve-wracking. (But) I didn’t really have that much to lose.”
Mays lost her second match, 1-6, 2-6, to Turpin’s Caitlin Fisher, who was fourth in the state last season as a sophomore.
“I knew she was a good player,” Bays said. “I’m glad I got three games out of her.”
Bellbrook’s top two singles players, junior Andrea Szep and senior Shea Foster teamed up to finish second at the Dayton sectional and had little trouble beating the Oak Hills team of juniors Sydney Jones and Erin Kallmeyer, 6-0, 6-0 in the opening round. In the second round, the Golden Eagles duo lost, 2-6, 2-6, to Mason’s Sanjana Reddy and Nicole Reid, the Mason sectional champions. Reid was part of a state-qualifying team last year.
The Beavers broke serve to tie the first set at 2-2, but then were quickly broken to go down 2-3 and couldn’t get back in the match.
“There was a big difference between Oak Hills and the whole Mason team (which) is deep,” Coach Dean Grisso said. “They played a nice match. On this particular day, the better team won. (Mason) forced us to do some things you don’t want to do. They’re just solid.”
Szep admitted some disappointment in not qualifying for Saturday’s semifinals, but wasn’t overly disappointed in losing in the district second round for the third straight year.
“We only had a couple doubles matches, but I don’t think it (made) that much of a difference,” Szep said. “I’m just glad I got to play with Shea. I was really happy with my partner.”
Szep said she will play singles in next year’s postseason.
The Beavercreek doubles team of seniors Vania Jiao and Esther Hu lost, 1-6, 3-6, to Sycamore’s Harsitha Kalaiarsan — who was a state qualifier with a different partner last year — and Helen Sotropa in the first round. The Aves team was the runner-up at the Mason sectional, while the Beavers were third in the Dayton sectional.
Jiao and Hu were Beavercreek’s top doubles team throughout the regular season, finishing 16-3.