The road to a third consecutive state berth for Oak Harbor’s Ashley LaFountain is about to get rough.
The district pairings, released Tuesday, reveal a tough course through Wednesday’s and Saturday’s district tournament for LaFountain. She could face the best player in the Northwest district as early as the semifinals, if she makes it that far.
In 2009 and 2010, the same three players — LaFountain, Lexington’s Courtney Earnest and Ottawa Hills’ Drew Fillis — have represented the Northwest district in the state tournament. Earnest advanced as the district champion in each of the last two years, while Fillis was district champ as a freshman in 2008.
The district tournament starts at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday at the University of Findlay’s Armstrong Athletic Complex, with the semifinals and finals at 10 a.m. Saturday at Findlay High School.
This year, LaFountain said, she’s in better shape and more prepared for the district tournament.
“I think my game is a lot more mature,” Ashley said. “For those pressure situations, when it comes down to a break point or a 40-30 point, I have a lot more options and I’m not as nervous anymore.”
To get to state again, LaFountain has a difficult trip — If she can navigate past Willard’s Brennyn Lillo and the winner of Lima Bath’s Emily Ruhe and Bryan’s Erin McDonagh, LaFountain will likely run into Earnest, who defeated LaFountain in the district finals in 2010.
“Courtney is really solid. She’s in great shape,” LaFountain said. “She’s really consistent. She might not hit as hard as Drew (Fillis) might, but she makes up for it with how persistent she is.”
Whether she wins or loses against Earnest, LaFountain will likely see either Fillis or Lima Shawnee junior Lauren Rovner. In those final two matches, LaFountain would need to go at least 1-1 for another state berth.
Fillis, an overpowering player, uses strength and power against her opponents. Oak Harbor coach Rick LaFountain compared her favorably to Serena Williams. Five of LaFountain’s nine career varsity losses have come to the Ottawa Hills senior.
“Drew just kind of goes out onto the court with the attitude that she’s not going to let anyone mess with her,” Ashley LaFountain said. “She’s just that power hitter — She goes out there and pretty much destroys people with how strong she is.”
Though LaFountain respects her opponents, she wouldn’t necessarily consider it an upset if she won.
“I think any day I can compete with them, so I don’t think it’d be so much of an upset as much as a good day for me.”
First-round singles pairings for local player
Ashley LaFountain (Oak Harbor junior, Clyde 1) vs. Brennyn Lillo (Willard senior, Shelby 4)
Sarah Sullivan (Perkins sophomore, Clyde 4) vs. Courtney Earnest (Lexington senior, Shelby 1)
Armelle DeRiso (St. Mary CC senior, Clyde 2) vs. Alex Griebling (Lexington freshman, Shelby 3)
Brittany Mayer (Huron junior, Clyde 3) vs. Nikki Harmon (Shelby senior, Shelby 2)
Can the sophomore Clyde duo make it to the state tournament on their first try?
As the district tournament throws Amanda Cahill and Lexi Weber into tougher competition, the goal ahead is in sight, but it won’t be easy.
All three state-qualifying tandems in 2010 from the Northwest district are gone, including the two teams from Port Clinton (Chelsea Beck and Aubrey Gillman, Samantha Griffin and Rachael Szabo).
The third, from perennial tennis power Lexington, was broken by graduation. Minutemen sophomore Elise Betscher, who advanced with senior partner Alisha Angle in 2010, is back as the No. 1 seed from the Shelby sectional with freshman Jillian Earnest. (The Betscher-Angle duo fell to the eventual state champions, Lauren and Ashley Thai, in the second round of the state tournament, 6-3, 6-3.)
Cahill and Weber start on the opposite half of the bracket, along with the No. 1-seed from Ottawa Hills, Shivani Bhatt and Nancy Rumpf, who triumphed in the Archbold sectional.
The district tournament starts at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday at the University of Findlay’s Armstrong Sports Complex with semifinals and finals 10 a.m. Saturday at Findlay High School.
First-round pairings for area players
Amber Peto-Morgan McGlothlin (Port Clinton, Clyde 2) vs. Addie Small-Rachel Niermann (Napoleon, Archbold 3)
Katie Schroeder-Tiffany Colston (Port Clinton, Clyde 3) vs. Alayna Schlade-Liz Yarnell (Napoleon, Archbold 2)
Karyn Schmidt-Morgan Schaeffer (Edison, Clyde 4) vs. Shivani Bhatt-Nancy Rumpf (Ottawa Hills, Archbold 1)
Lynsie Allen-Alexandrea Worcester (Willard, Shelby 3) vs. Ashlin Gable-Emily Sprague (Bluffton, Lima 2)
Amanda Cahill-Lexi Weber (Clyde, Clyde 1) vs. Paige Aubry-Nicole Denner (Ottawa Hills, Archbold 4)