MASON — Maya Brink let out a brief sigh as she prepared to serve at 15-40 in the opening game of the match.
She won the point, got the game to deuce, but lost the next two points and things didn’t go as planned from there.
Brink lost in her first match of the Division I state girls singles tennis tournament, 6-0, 6-0, to North Canton Hoover’s Tess Bucher, a state semifinalist last year as a freshman who placed fourth-overall.
Despite bowing out early, the goal Brink set out for herself at the start of her year was still achieved. She made it to state.
“I thought I was able to have fun in every single match,” Brink, a sophomore, said about her season. “I was able to play my best each time and honestly just have a really enjoyable time. I would really like to come back next year.”
The two sophomores squared off in the opening match Friday morning at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason where just a few months ago some of the best professionals in the world were competing on the same court.
The match start was delayed a few minutes by a small mist and later had a steadier sprinkle fall as Brink attempted to find some steadiness.
Trailing 3-0 in the first set, she nearly broke Bucher’s serve at 30-40, but Bucher held after a long rally and led 4-0 when play had to be suspended due to the weather.
After 20 minutes, OHSAA officials decided to have all play go indoors with the D-I tournament moving to the South Regency Tennis Center in Springboro.
“We had a really good warm-up, and started out really strong the delay really wasn’t that long and all in all they actually handled it really quickly,” Coach Lauren Dever said. “We were kind of fortunate we got to come to a club that we were familiar with that’s closer to home. We had to keep our focus off of those things if the delay would have gone too long and just keep the focus on what you’re doing and what you need to do when you get back out there.”
Brink battled through the delay and kept games close, but Dever believes she was edged by a more experienced player.
Brink impressed in winning the sectional tournament with four of her victories coming by 6-0, 6-0, scores.
At districts, she advanced to the semifinal match, which qualified her for state, but lost to St. Ursula’s Emily Jennewein in three sets. She lost in the third-place match to Turpin’s Sarah Clark in three as well.
Brink was familiar with the state setting after qualifying via doubles as a freshman last year alongside Nitika Arora. They bowed out in the opening match, but were Bellbrook’s first two players to be state qualifiers in girls tennis.
“Doubles wasn’t really something that she played a lot last year, especially during the regular season when she didn’t really play doubles at all,” Dever said. “Singles is where I can tell she is most comfortable and that’s good because that’s how she plays. She can orchestrate some points and the vibe sort of suits her game better anyway. To see her take control and have to work by herself, I felt like she did a really good job.”
Brink said she felt her enjoyment of this year’s competition to be on par with playing in doubles last year, but enjoyed the control she has as a singles player.
“It’s much different doing this by yourself as opposed to having a teammate,” she said. “With a teammate you have somebody that you can cheer on but this is just all you. That made it both bad and very good at some points. I definitely prefer being a singles player but it was still definitely different.”
With one goal achieved, Brink already has the next one in mind to advance at next year’s state tournament.
Dever noted her youth as a sophomore this year, but also how much experience she gained facing better competition at the district and state levels.
“It’s one of the best ways to become a better player is to face off with people who are above you,” Brink said. “Play them, get to see them, know what to strive for.”
Brink credits her parents for keeping her motivated and helping her get through any frustrations she faces on the court.
With her season now finished, there’s plenty of time to get over Friday’s loss and figure out what are those takeaways for improvement.
In the meantime, Brink has her next plan of attack thought out, and it doesn’t involve a tennis racket.
“Not go back to school today,” she said of her plans. “But other than that it’s time to chill out and hang out with family.”
Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.