West Geauga’s Rylie Hanford defeated Orange’s Blessing Nwaozuzu in two sets to place third at the 2018 Ohio High School Athletic Association state tennis tournament on Saturday.
Hanford won the third-place match, 6-3, 6-4.
“I was very excited to have placed third in my first state tournament,” Hanford said. “I was definitely upset with the loss in the semis but the experience of the state stage was definitely new and exciting and I can’t wait for next year.”
Columbus Academy’s Sydni Ratliff topped Hanford in the semifinals, 6-3, 6-0. Ratliff went on to finish as the state runner-up.
“In the semis, too many errors at the wrong points and I didn’t not compete as well as I wanted to,” Hanford said. “Sydni definitely made it hard for me to play my best and I am going to try to learn from the loss and come back stronger next time.”
Hanford, who opened the state tournament with straight-set wins over Dayton Oakwood’s Lily McCloskey and Laurel’s Rachel Buchinsky in the preliminary rounds.
She rebounded from her semifinals loss to beat Nwaozuzu for the third time in as many weeks.
“It was definitely a learning experience,” Hanford said. “Bouncing back and recovering from the loss in the semis was definitely hard mentally. I wanted to go home feeling like I had grown and learned and bouncing back helped me accomplish both of those two things.”
Nwaozuzu also advanced to the semifinals with two-set wins over Cincinnati Summit Country Day’s Elizabeth Fahrmeier and Hawken’s Stephanie Shulman before falling to Hathaway Brown’s Nicole Gillinov in the semis, 6-2, 6-1. Gillinov went on to win the state title for the second straight season.
The win over Fahrmeier avenged a loss in the 2017 state tournament. Fahrmeier went on to place fourth last fall.
Shulman won her first round bout over Toledo Central Catholic’s Ellie Hire, 6-1, 6-1, before bowing out of the tournament with the loss to Nwaozuzu. Shulman closed her career as a two-time state qualifier
She placed third in the boys’ doubles tournament last spring.