Kevin Goheen reports:
Kings junior Amina Ismail had already beaten one state champion on Saturday and was serving to even up the Division I district singles title match against defending state champion Mehvish Safdar.
Safdar held off Ismail’s charge, winning the final three games of the match to come away with her second consecutive district championship 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
Lakota West seniors Nicole Soutar and Tori Turner also needed three sets to take the district doubles title against senior Taylor Holden and sophomore Maddy Mueck of Lakota East, 7-6 (1), 5-7, 6-4.
The top four placers in both singles and doubles advanced to next weekend’s state tournament at Ohio State University.
Ismail was a surprise finalist against Safdar. Ismail, a state quarterfinalist as a freshman two years ago, beat Mount Notre Dame senior Sandy Niehaus in the morning semifinals 7-5, 7-5. Niehaus was the 2010 state champion and runner-up to Safdar last year.
“I was surprised to be playing her but it opened my eyes and reminded me that everyone out here is good and it’s not about who strikes the ball harder, but it’s the aside things like who keeps their head in the match,” said Safdar. “She was getting everything back. Even when I was up 3-0 she kept coming back. You have to put the other thoughts away and just play your game.”
The victory was Safdar’s 82nd career singles win, the most ever at Ursuline. She takes over the top spot formerly held by older sister Komal, with whom she teamed up with to win the 2010 state doubles title.
Safdar was in control throughout to win the opening set, but Ismail got a break of serve to go up 4-2 in the second set and then held on to her final two service games to send the match to a third set.
Having already secured a state berth by winning two matches on Thursday, Ismail was consistent on Saturday.
“I wasn’t thinking about who I was playing. I just played consistent and smarter than I usually do,” said Ismail. “I was thinking about the score a little bit in the first set (against Safdar) and I can’t do that. In the third set, she played out of her mind because she knew she couldn’t let up.”
Niehaus came back from her loss to Ismail to beat Springboro senior Julie Brockman 6-4, 6-3 to take third place.
“Amina didn’t miss much today and played an awesome match and deserved to be in the finals,” said Niehaus. “I’m not upset at all by the loss. I’m happy I was able to bounce back. And I get to play again next weekend.”
Turner and Soutar will be making their first state appearances. Turner hadn’t played for Lakota West since her freshman season, deciding instead to concentrate on USTA junior play.
“I wanted to come back and give it another try because I had so much fun my freshman year,” said Turner.