Kevin Goheen reports:
Cincinnati-area players claimed seven of eight state tennis tournament berths Thursday as the DivisionI girls’ district tournament began at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
Defending state singles champion Mehvish Safdar of Ursuline, 2010 state champion and 2011 runner-up Sandy Niehaus of Mount Notre Dame and 2010 state quarterfinalist Amina Ismail of Kings all won two matches on Thursday to advance to Saturday’s semifinals and automatically qualify for the state tournament.
This will be the fourth consecutive trip to the state tournament for Niehaus. She was a quarterfinalist in doubles with partner Kelly Dennis as a freshman in 2009.
Four doubles teams from four Greater Miami Conference schools earned state berths. The GMC was represented by seven of the eight quarterfinalists.
Juniors Nina Cepeda and Lynn Kelly of Mason, state quarterfinalists last year, will face the Lakota East duo of senior Taylor Holden and sophomore Maddy Mueck in one semifinal.
Holden joins Niehaus in earning a fourth state tournament appearance. She was a quarterfinalist in singles last year as a junior.
Holden missed more than three weeks of play because of a fractured hand bone. She got medical clearance to return a week ago.
“The whole team looked to her as the experienced competitor and when she was out the girls knew that,” said Lakota East coach Karen Barnes. “She stepped right in without missing a beat.”
Sycamore freshmen Alexa Abele and Maggie Skwara will play seniors Tori Turner and Nicole Soutar of Lakota West in the other semifinal. Both teams were sectional champions last week.
Niehaus had to beat junior Aundrea Busse of Springboro 6-3, 6-4 to reach the semifinals. Busse, the Dayton sectional champion, is among the top 50 players in her division of the USTA Midwest rankings, as are Niehaus, Safdar and Ismail.
Ismail and Niehaus will play in one semifinal, while Safdar will meet Springboro senior Julie Brockman in the other semifinal.