By Dan Gilles
As a sophomore Westlake’s Lauren Golick won her first Division I sectional and district singles championships at Oberlin College, en route to a third-place finish at state in 2010.
This season, Golick, who has yet to taste defeat, has matched her postseason path thus far, claiming her second-straight district championship last Saturday with a 4-0 performance.
Golick, for the second straight week, defeated Magnificat’s Emily Witt in the championship match. Like the sectional final, Golick dispatched the sophomore with an identical 6-0, 6-1 score to claim the district title.
“It feels great (to win the district title again),” Golick said. “I’ve been playing really well this season, and it’s definitely showed at districts and sectionals. I wanted to be more aggressive, because you have to be able to play strong on offense (at state) to try to win points that way and not waste a lot of energy.
“You get more confidence for state (going in as a district champ), and you get a better draw … hopefully.” Golick added, “We’ll have to see about that.”
Golick will be joined in Columbus by the Demons doubles team of Michelle Djohan and Julia Dunbar.
“It’s always fun to strive for certain goals, but it’s also even more fun to see them actually happen,” Westlake coach Ralph Dunbar said. “Sending three girls to states is always an accomplishment, but having them come out as a No. 1 and a No. 2, respectively, is a big difference than going in as a 5 or a 6.
“For me as a father, to see my daughter come in and go to states makes it more special. That was one of her goals last year, but she lost at districts,” Coach Dunbar added. “They may have lost a little bit of energy after their semifinal win (a 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 victory over Kenston’s Natasha Birze-Mandy Marchant, who wound up third), but that’s understandable. We’re excited to go down to states and go through one round down there and see what happens.”
Djohan and Dunbar also reached the championship match at doubles. However, Westlake was denied the district championship sweep when Canfield’s Allison Pavlansky and Gabrielle Brant handed them their first loss of the season, 6-4, 4-6, 6-0.
“After going (with a different doubles partner) last year, I felt confident going in that we could make it back to state this year,” Djohan said. “I’m just really relieved that we did, and, for the most part, we played really well at districts. Last year, we got third, so I was happy to be able to get to state again with a higher place and do a little better here this year.”
This will be Djohan’s second-straight state berth in doubles, while Dunbar, a sophomore, will be playing in her first state tournament.
“Michelle’s such a great doubles player, and it’s helped me with my doubles play as well,” Julia Dunbar said. “When we’re together, it’s great. It’s a good team.
“The whole experience was great. This is a good tournament with good players from top-to-bottom, so to get to the championship match here gives us confidence for what’s to come at state.”
Other than her 6-0, 6-2 first-round win over Aurora’s Matina Mamounas on Thursday, all of Golick’s victories came over girls who placed in the top six at districts. The top six in each category advance to state.
“Lauren was really focused today,” Coach Dunbar said. “She’s a focused individual, but where pressure sometimes gets to people, Lauren actually plays better under pressure than most people. I think that’s one of her biggest strengths. That, and just staying focused all the way through a match.
“Sometimes you have a bad point or a bad game (but) none of that stuff really affects her. She has her own goals for state that she hasn’t told us, but I’m sure you can imagine what that is.”
Golick defeated Medina’s Ali Garrity (sixth), 6-2, 7-6 (7-1), Walsh Jesuit’s Katelyn Hissong (third), 6-1, 6-0, and Witt.
Golick, who is a favorite to win the state championship, gave credit to Witt.
“She’s a great player,” she said. “She’s always coming back strong and she doesn’t make a lot of errors. She’s very consistent. So, it’s fun to play that type of player because that makes me work on the other aspects of my game.”
Witt, who couldn’t crack the Magnificat tennis lineup as a freshman and watched her teammates do well at sectionals, districts and state last season, will be the one carrying the Blue Streaks banner down in Columbus this season. She qualified with a 6-2, 7-5 upset of Aurora’s Maddie Gilley, the Solon sectional champ, on Thursday, and reached the championship match Saturday when Hudson’s Kati Mdzinarishvili forfeited the match due to an illness.
“I’m really excited to be going down to state,” Witt said. “I feel really ready for what’s to come. I hope to do my best and see what happens.
“I was excited to just get to the final here. Every girl here is so good. I’m just happy that I made it. Now I’m hoping to at least win my first match (at state) and take it from there.”
Witt said playing someone like Golick in back-to-back weeks can only make her better and more prepared for state.
“She’s a really good player,” she said. “She’s just at another level than everyone else here, and it’s different going up against her. It will help me to know what I have to work on in the offseason to get better and stronger.
“It definitely helps me adjust my game to her game, which is a lot different.”
Witt extends Magnificat’s streak of at least one state qualifier to 15 years, according to coach Chris Johnson.
“I think going from varsity ‘B’ first singles to a state qualifier in one year is a fantastic accomplishment,” Johnson said. “I think you saw there are different ways to win in tennis than just power. She played smart. She moved around the court, she mixed in lobs, she mixed in flatter balls. She used her conditioning and all of her hard work in the offseason to come through against a very good player (in Gilley).”
Gilley wound up finishing fifth when she defeated Medina’s Ali Garrity, 6-4, 6-4. Garrity eliminated Magnificat freshman Lauren O’Malley, a Westlake resident, 6-3, 6-3, earlier Saturday.
O’Malley went from being unseeded to placing third at the sectional, and reached the second round at districts Thursday morning with a default victory over Mentor’s Natalie Weaver. But she was beaten by Hissong, 6-0, 7-6 (7-4), in the quarterfinals.
The three other area doubles teams, Westlake’s Bhargavi Maheswer and Dana Miller and Magnificat’s Jessica Hollis and Abby Lawless and Annie Foliano and Kelly Plagens, were all eliminated in the first round Thursday morning.