High school athletes dream of one day making it to the state tournament.
For Oak Harbor's Ashley LaFountain, that dream has twice become a reality.
By finishing second at the Division II district tournament in Port Clinton last week, the sophomore tennis player has again qualified for the state tennis tournament in Columbus.
The tournament, which takes place today at the Stickney Center and on Saturday at Hilliard Davidson High School in Columbus, features the top placers from each district in a 16-player field. LaFountain will face Portsmouth's Mollie Miller, ranked 85th nationally among freshman girls according to the Tennis Recruiting Network.
In her first two years, LaFountain has twice won the Sandusky Bay Conference singles title and the sectional meet. Last year she finished third at districts and won one match at the state meet before falling in the second round.
"Going into this season, I was hoping to do a repeat of last year," said LaFountain. "I won SBCs and sectionals, so I'm just trying to keep (it) up. I wanted to do a little bit better at districts, so now I've got to show it at state."
LaFountain, who has performed brilliantly this season, is coached by her father, Rick, who coaches both the boys and girls tennis teams at Oak Harbor.
"She really started playing seriously when she was about nine," said Rick LaFountain. "After practice at Fremont Ross (where he was the head coach), she'd follow me around and help pick up tennis balls. The only way I could get her and her brother to play was to take them out for ice cream."
Her brother, Greg, was second-team All-SBC as a singles player last year.
To practice, she sometimes competes against Greg.
"We usually end up fighting before we come off the court," said Ashley LaFountain. "We're really competitive when we're out there."
"They used to try and play quite a bit - it would always end up in a fight," said Rick
Ashley LaFountain, who has gone 33-3 this season, almost entirely as a singles player, trains competitively in the offseason by playing tennis at Baywinds Athletic Club in Perkins Township. She also takes lessons at Shadow Valley Tennis Club in Maumee and competes in United States Tennis Association tournaments in around 25 events per year.
"I usually try to play every day," said Ashley of her offseason routine. "I take a day off each week."
Regardless of what happens in Columbus, Rick LaFountain is proud of his daughter.
"She met all of her goals for the season. No matter what happens, she'll do the best she can and take it one match at a time."
(By Yaneek Smith/Special to the Register)