MASON — The most successful season in Eaton girls tennis history came to end at the Division II district tournament last week.
Eaton sent a record two singles players and a doubles team to battle some of the best players the Southwest District has to offer.
Last season, Eaton’s Sophia Murphy was the first-ever Eagle to qualify for the district.
Murphy made a return trip along with her younger sister Grace Murphy and the top doubles team of Addie Bell and Brianna Ward were able to make the trip to Lindner Tennis Center in Mason.
Sophia made more history becoming the first Eaton player to win a match at the district level when she defeated Mia Masterson of Cincinnati Country Day 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (2). Her season came to an end in the second round with 6-0, 6-0 loss to Hayley Hirsch of Cincinnati Indian Hill.
Grace Murphy bowed out in the opening round losing to Elizabeth Fahrmeier of Cincinnati Summit Country Day, 6-0, 6-0.
The doubles team also dropped its first match 6-0, 6-1 to Nina Price and Samantha Pregel of Indian Hill.
“Sophia had the most dramatic match of the morning. Since she was able to win 1st place in the Troy sectional, she was guaranteed to play someone who finished 4th in the other three sectionals. Either Dayton, Cincinnati, or Mason which was still going to be a challenging opponent but we hoped one that she could at least compete with,” Eaton coach John Hitchcock said.
After being down early in the first set she turned her game up a notch and won the first set 6-2. Then started hot in the second only to lose steam and eventually lost the 2nd set 2-6.
“At that point, her opponent had all the momentum and there was a lot of negativity in Sophia’s body language,” Hitchcock said.
Down 1-4 in the third set, she decided to start playing her game and slowly started to swing the momentum back, according to Hitchcock.
She eventually got it to 4-all, then it became 5-all, then 6-all, forcing a tiebreaker to decide the match.
Ultimately, she pulled out the victory by winning 7-2 in the tiebreaker.
“The tiebreaker felt a lot more intense than the score indicated. Both girls played extremely well and hard and both deserved to win,” Hitchcock said. “This win was the first time for a girls player to reach the second round of districts. Sophia was again breaking barriers for our program and making history. Unfortunately, her next opponent from Indian Hill was no stranger to the tennis court and defeated Sophia 0-6, 0-6 and ended up placing second in districts.”
Grace Murphy had a very tough first round as her opponent from Summit Country Day was a state qualifier as a freshman the year before.
”It was definitely a match where Grace had nothing to lose and a match where she needed to play extra aggressive and take some chances,” Hitchcock said. “Even though she ended up losing 0-6, 0-6, she actually played some high quality tennis and won some very good points. She just couldn’t string enough together to translate into games. Her opponent ended up placing third.”
The doubles team also drew a formidable opponent right off the bat.
“They had to face the top doubles team from Indian Hill. Similar to Grace’s match, we told our girls to go for it. Swing away, take chances at the net, and try to put the ball away when you could,” Hitchcock said. “Our two actually played some solid doubles. They moved well, anticipated well, but the other girls had just too much game. To their credit, the Indian Hill team ended up as district champs so our girls have no reason to hold their heads down.”
Hitchcock is hoping to keep the momentum of the past two seasons going.
“Despite the defeats, the girls really enjoyed the day and the experience,” he said. “For senior Addie Bell it was a bitter sweet end. However, for our younger girls, I hope it continues to motivate them to make it back. Hopefully next season we can return as many and/or do a little more damage once we are there.“
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH