Solon sophomore Niya Fried returns a forehand shot during her runner-up finish in the Division I sectional singles tournament last Thursday at her home Solon Community Park courts.

The Solon girls tennis team was prepared to advance three rackets out of the 17-school Division I sectional tournament last week at the Solon Community Park, but the Lady Comets had to add two more reservations for districts.

In the 34-tandem doubles bracket, Solon junior Ava Maersch and sophomore lefty Lindsay Lebowitz were penciled in for a one-and-done exit with an opening match against Hudson’s No. 4-seed team of Samantha Sigler and Katie Tuttle.

The Lady Explorers won the first set, 6-4, but Maersch and Lebowitz found their groove in the second set for a 5-2 upper hand. The Solon tandem did not hold serve, as Hudson cut the deficit, 5-4, before the Lady Comets closed out the frame to even the match.

Prior to the quarterfinals, three-set matches were decided by a 10-point tiebreaker and the Solon girls fell behind, 9-5, before facing four straight match points against Hudson. But Maersch and Lebowitz fought back and rattled off six straight points for the upset, 11-9.

With the top four singles players and the top four doubles teams seeded in each bracket, that was the only Division I sectional match that featured a non-ranked tandem or player defeating a seeded opponent, and it came in the round of 32.

But Maersch and Lebowitz weren’t finished yet. They went on to defeat the Twinsburg’s doubles team of Ashley Veverka and Grace McIlroy, 6-0, 6-0, and then dispatched Aurora seniors Quincy Bizjak and Norah O’Collaghan, 6-1, 6-0, in the quarterfinals to punch their tickets to districts.

Maersch and Lebowitz lost their semifinal match against Howland’s No. 1-seed tandem of Francesca Elisco and Kate Li, 6-1, 6-3, before going on to finish fourth against Kenston.

Also earning district bids, Solon sophomore Niya Fried took runner-up in singles play, while Solon’s No. 1 doubles tandem of senior Ellie Chelnick and sophomore Sasha Gorbacheva were runners-up in doubles play and Kenston’s tandem of junior Kelsi Currington and senior Lily Peelman finished third.

Solon’s Fried, who was a state qualifier in doubles last season, with 2020 graduate Maggie Yang as her partner, entered last week’s sectional tournament as the No. 3 seed in singles play.

Fried cruised her way through the quarterfinals with 6-0, 6-0 victories against Mayfield’s Katie Eippert and Chardon’s Maddy Atchley, and then a 6-3, 6-1 triumph against Mentor’s Payton Sikora.

In her semifinal match, Fried upset Hudson No. 2-seed senior Laura Nijhuis, 6-2, 6-4, before losing her championship match against Mayfield senior Hannah Kassaie, 6-2, 6-2. Kassaie was a state quarterfinalist in doubles last season.

Back in sectional doubles play, Solon’s Chelnick-Gorbacheva tandem disposed of its opponents from Cleveland Heights, 6-0, 6-0, Howland, 6-1, 6-0, and Mayfield, 6-0, 6-0, to secure a district berth.

Meanwhile, Kenston’s Currington-Peelman tandem went to business against its opponents from Aurora, 6-1, 6-0, and Twinsburg, 6-2, 6-1, and, in the quarterfinals, grinded out a three-set victory against Shaker Heights’ Natalia Glinzler and Ruth Wilson, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

Solon’s Chelnick and Gorbacheva and Kenston’s Currington and Peelman then collided in the semifinals, where the Lady Comets came away the 7-6, 7-5 victors.

In their championship match, Chelnick and Gorbacheva lost a 6-0, 6-2 effort against Howland’s Elisco and Li.

Kenston’s Currington and Peelman rebounded with a 6-1, 6-1 victory against Solon’s Maersch and Lebowitz to finish third.

Up next, the five Lady Comets and Kenston’s tandem will compete in the Division I Northeast District tournament this Thursday and Saturday at the Springside Racquet and Fitness Club in Akron.

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