Orange sophomore Alexis Nyborg had just faced the toughest opponent she had all season, but it was about to get a lot tougher.
The Lady Lion standout singles player catapulted her way to a repeat state berth with a 6-2, 6-2 victory against Revere junior Morgan Dobos in the quarterfinals of the girls Division II Northeast District tennis tournament Friday at the Springside Racquet and Fitness Club in Akron.
That victory improved her season record to 18-0, as Nyborg had yet to surrender more than four games in any given match with straight-set victories across the board.
“My serves were really good that day,” Nyborg said. “So, I aced a lot, and I’m really happy with how my serve was that day to help win me a lot of points in my service games. (Dobos’) shots were really hard and really deep, so it kind of made me miss a lot, but I ended up getting used to it and got those balls back eventually.”
The only returning state singles qualifier out of the Northeast District from a year ago, some might say the 2020 title was Nyborg’s to win. She finished fourth in 2019.
But there would be no two-set victories during day two of the tournament on Saturday, when Nyborg would take on Laurel School sophomore Ellie Brotherton, of Bainbridge Township, and Hathaway Brown freshman Summer Mu, of Solon.
Brotherton was a state runner-up last season in doubles play. She won a pair of 6-0, 6-0 victories during her opening matches in district singles play on Friday.
In the district semifinals on Saturday, Nyborg and Brotherton went to a tiebreaker in their first set. The two practice a lot together.
“In the first set, there were a lot of breaks,” Nyborg said. “It was really cold outside, so it took us a while to get used to the temperature and get warmed up. So, I think that kind of had an impact on our service games.”
Nyborg ended up capturing the first set, 7-6(5), but Brotherton came storming back with a 6-2 victory in the next set.
“I feel like I kind of got tired after that first set, since it was so long,” Nyborg said. “And she started playing a lot better and hitting a lot of winners. I had to try really hard (in the third set) to win the first one or two games to get the momentum back and to basically just get a lead that could help me win.”
In her first three-set match of 2020, Nyborg ended up taking the victory, 7-6(5), 2-6, 6-3, to advance to the title match.
Brotherton was able to rebound with a 6-1, 6-2 victory against Hathaway Brown senior Olivia Gidlow to finish third, improving her season record to 20-3.
Nyborg, meanwhile, was up against HB rookie Mu in the title bout. Mu won her Friday matches against Chagrin Falls senior Adelaide Doman, 6-0, 6-1, and Orrville senior Claudia Adcock, 6-0, 6-0, before defeating her senior teammate Gidlow, 6-3, 6-2, in the semis.
In the title match, Mu came out on fire and won a 6-3 opening set against Nyborg.
“She’s really consistent, hits really deep, and her serves are pretty hard, so I had to get used to that,” Nyborg said. “I tried to be more aggressive after losing that set and move her around a lot, and I think that worked out. The points were kind of short, but we both were hitting a lot of winners.”
Nyborg turned the court in her favor to win the next two sets pretty handily, taking the match, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, and the title.
The Division II Northeast District continually represents the top players in the state, especially last year, when all five singles players who qualified out of the Northeast won their opening matches at the big dance.
“I’m really proud of myself, since last year I only got fourth place (at districts),” Nyborg said. “I’ve been practicing a lot to do the best I can this season, and I think that really helped me to play well at districts. I had high expectations. I expected to play really good players, and I had really close matches with them.”
Up next, Nyborg will open her state run against Cincinnati Indian Hill freshman Brooke Arington on Friday at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, just northeast of Cincinnati. Arington finished fourth out of the Southwest District.
Meanwhile, Mu will open against Dayton Oakwood senior Lily McCloskey, a returning state qualifier and runner-up out of the Southwest District. The winner of that match will likely take on defending state champion Sydni Ratliff, a senior from Columbus Academy.
Laurel’s Brotherton will play Lexington junior Gracie Pfieffer, a returning state qualifier and runner-up out of the Northwest District.
And Hathaway Brown’s Gidlow will take on Toledo Ottawa Hills freshman Catherine Rhegness – the Northwest District champion.