Embrace the pressure.
All eyes were on Norwalk senior Lizzie Ratliff and junior Sela Berry at the close of Saturday's annual Norwalk Invitational doubles tournament.
Playing in the title match at No. 4 doubles, the pair faced Clyde's Akane Aritsuka and Emma Strudthoff in the final match of the tournament. With a large crowd gathered and watching, Ratliff and Berry overcame an early deficit — then controlled a 10-6 win to earn the bracket title.
“That wasn't my first time being the last match,” Ratliff said. “It's weird, and there is some pressure, but it's also really nice to have your whole team and coaching staff right there to cheer you on.”
As a team, the host Truckers scored 62 points to place third behind Clyde (85) and Ashland (72). Willard (56) was fourth, followed by Amherst (26), Findlay (26), Edison (21) and Bellevue (0).
Ratliff and Berry were the lone champions for the Truckers, though all four teams placed fifth or better.
“It's really exciting, because we worked really hard to get here,” Berry said. “This is a good feeling after a long day to be able to have all that adrenaline running still, and put it to it's use.”
At first doubles, Norwalk's Macy Miller and Jordan Gran fell in the first round to Edison's Mariah and Jayla Medina (10-5), but topped the team from Findlay (6-4) to claim fifth. The second doubles team of Megan Berry and Gabby Horowitz lost a tough 10-8 opener against Ashland, but also responded with a win over Bellevue's Mady Brugnone and Wyanna Schalk (6-4) for fifth.
Mara Berry and Emma Trost cruised past Bellevue's Rayven Whyde and Summer Strunk (10-1) in the first match at third doubles, then beat Willard's Tori Barnett and Whitney Robinson (10-5) before falling to Clyde's Saylor Meyer and Siera Hisey in the finals.
“In a tournament with a great deal of competition, we were up for the challenge,” Norwalk coach Chris Higgins said. “With many new varsity players, finishing third overall as a team is a great accomplishment. Macy and Jordan were unable to get anything started in the first match, as Edison was doing a great job of moving them around a lot. Their consolation match against Findlay was very tightly-contested, but it went their way. Megan and Gabby were very close to upsetting the eventual bracket champion from Ashland in the first round. They redeemed themselves in the consolation.”
While Clyde was sharp against Mara Berry and Trost, Higgins was more than pleased to see them in the title match.
“It's a great accomplishment for two first-year varsity players to be playing in the final,” he said. “Our stars today were Lizzie and Sela. They certainly did not make it easy on themselves, as they barely squeaked by in the first round.
“In the final, they had to make a comeback early in the set before they started taking control of the action,” Higgins added. “Both Sela and Lizzie were clearly determined to take home the championship. Very proud of their effort all day.”
Solid showing for Willard
In a field with three Division I teams and a solid Div. II foe in Clyde, Crimson Flashes coach Josh Bauerle was more than pleased with his team's fourth-place finish.
“It was a very good day at one of the best tournaments in the area — there are a lot of great teams here,” he said. “Anytime you get a chance to play teams like Ashland and Findlay, who we never get to see, then play teams like Clyde and Norwalk … just several solid teams here.
The No. 2 doubles pairing of Emma Moll and Addy Paxton finished second to Ashland. The duo opened with a 10-6 win over Edison's Madisyn Frederick and Emily Vogus, then cruised past Findlay (10-2) before falling in a competitive title match agains the Arrows, 10-7.
“For our second doubles team to make the final and play Ashland really well was big for us,” Bauerle said.
Barnett and Robinson responded to a second-round loss by beating Amherst for third place (6-0) at No. 3 doubles. They had opened with a 10-1 win over Findlay. Kennedy Daub and Kaili Sowers also responded from a their semifinal setback with a 6-5 (5) win over Findlay for third. They had topped Ashland, 10-4, in the first round.
Addie Slone and Jo Brubaker beat Bellevue's Skyler Strunk and Chloe Brubaker (6-1) to tie for fifth at first doubles.
“Tori and Whitney, they are our traditional second doubles, and they had a great day,” Bauerle said. “Kaili picked up a racquet a month ago, and she goes out and gets third place with Kennedy today.
“Addie and Jo have a chance to be very good, but they had a tough draw today with a very good Clyde team in the first round. But this was a fantastic tournament that was well-run, and getting fourth here is a good day.”
Medinas place third for Edison
After Mariah and Jayla Medina fell against Ashland (10-4) in the semifinals, the pair bounced back with a 6-4 win over Amherst to claim third place at first doubles for the Chargers.
After a first-round loss to Willard at second doubles, Frederick and Vogus responded to place fifth with a 6-5 (4) win over Amherst at No. 2 doubles.