By Josh Brown
TROY — After winning two sectional doubles titles, Troy’s Hannah Essick hadn’t won one at singles.
Maggie Hennessy, who won those two doubles titles with Essick, hadn’t won one without her. And Ashley Bruns hadn’t won one at all.
Saturday, all three of the Trojans’ seniors earned what they wanted.
Essick, the No. 1 seed in the singles bracket, held off Northmont’s Marissa Anderson in two close sets to win the sectional championship, while the second-seeded doubles team of Hennessy and Bruns knocked off the top-seeded team from Butler in three sets to claim the title at the Division I sectional tennis tournament Saturday at Troy Community Park.
“I couldn’t be happier for our three seniors,” Troy coach Mark Goldner said. “To see them all three going out as sectional champions, I couldn’t be happier.”
Essick cruised past Tecumseh’s Karli Mulkey 6-2, 6-1 in the semifinal round to face Anderson, the No. 2 seed in the bracket who had won a tough three-set, two-and-a-half-hour match against Butler’s Xia Lin in her semifinal. The previous season, Essick had been seeded No. 2 and lost to a top-seeded player from Northmont in the sectional final — and she wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again.
Truthfully, though, it wasn’t the sectional championship that Essick was after — it was the opportunity to have a better draw at next week’s district tournament.
“It’s what I was aiming for since last year,” Essick said. “I lost in the finals and got second, so I had to play a No. 3 seed at district. I was aiming to get that No. 1 this year so I could play a No. 4 seed to have a better chance to at least win my first match at district, then hopefully my second to make it to state. I was really aiming for that first seed going in.”
Anderson was still in a fighting mood, even after her lengthy three-setter earlier in the day. Neither player could hold serve in the first set until Essick finally held to serve out the set at 6-4. She then fell behind 4-3 in the second set, only to win the final three straight games to win in straight sets, 6-4.
“It was a good match, it was close,” Essick said. “It was a good match before districts. I was just thinking that it can’t go to a tiebreaker. I get under pressure in tiebreakers, so I was trying to focus on all my shots and make them all, and trying to get my serves in since I struggled with them today.
“It feels good. I feel good going into districts now.”
“Hannah got a decent match before district, and that was good for her,” Goldner said. “She needed to play one like that. That’s how it’s going to be down there next week. I thought she was driving the ball really well today and playing aggressive, which is good.”
Hennessy and Bruns, meanwhile, had to go through two seeded Butler doubles teams. First, they defeated No. 4 Ashley Hess and Jenna Al-Bezreh 6-0, 6-0 to earn a spot in the championship match against the No. 1 seed, Madison Peyton and Allison Baker, who had defeated Troy’s third-seeded team of Hailey Taylor and Katie Sherrick 6-3, 6-0 to reach the final.
The Trojan duo fought hard to win a first-set tiebreaker 7-6 (3), only to drop the second set quickly 3-6.
“I was sort of torn,” said Hennessy, who was Troy’s second singles player during the regular season. ” I was sort of scared of how fast they won that second set. I was nervous that they were going to kick it into gear in the third, so Ashley and I knew we had to come together and regroup — which she helped me do. And it helped out a lot in the third set.”
Hennessy and Bruns held a 3-0 lead early in the second set, but Butler fought back to 3-2. The Trojans won the next two to make it 5-2 with Butler serving to keep the match going, but a double fault on match point ended it, 6-2.
“We lost to Butler in the final last year. To come back and beat them this year is pretty amazing,” said Bruns, Troy’s third singles player during the regular season. “It feels pretty good, because it’s senior year, our last high school extravaganza.”
“We knew coming in that it would be a tough match,” Hennessy said. “We just had to stay positive, and it helped us. A lot. And it’s important that we were seeded No. 1 going into districts. They’re really good down there, so playing a No. 4 helps us.”
“For Maggie and Ashley, they got into the finals last year and lost to Butler,” Goldner said. “I think the extra year of maturity on both of them helped. They were just mentally tougher today. They could have folded after that second set, but they got off to a good start in the third. And breaking serve at 3-2 to go up 4-2 in that third set was huge.”
It was the third sectional doubles title for Hennessy, who won with Essick in her freshman and sophomore years. Essick added her third overall sectional title and both will be making their fourth district appearances, while Bruns won her first title and will make her second trip to district.
Sophomores Sherrick and Taylor, meanwhile, will play in their first district tournament — and go in as a No. 3 seed. After losing their semifinal match, they faced Butler’s Hess and Al-Bezreh for the fourth time this season. Sherrick and Taylor won a pro-set match at the Schroeder Invitational and at the Greater Western Ohio Conference tournament, but lost the full-length match during the head-to-head dual in the regular season.
Saturday, Sherrick and Taylor won when it counted most, claiming a 6-4, 6-1 victory to place third in the sectional.
“For Katie and Hailey to beat that Butler team in straight sets was great for them,” Goldner said. “They beat them three out of the four times they played them this season, and now they go to district as a No. 3 seed.”
* Division II
Milton-Union’s Ashley Wombold and Abby Hissong, the Bulldogs’ first and second singles players in the regular season, entered the Division II sectional doubles tournament unseeded.
Tippecanoe’s Ladia Coning and Alyssa Stewart was the top seed, having played together at first doubles all season long.
But Saturday belonged to the Bulldogs as, after both teams lost their semifinal matches, Wombold and Hissong swept Coning and Stewart in straight sets to finish third in the sectional at Troy Community Park.
Coning and Stewart lost a tough three-set match to Kenton Ridge’s Wallace and Sellars, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, while Wombold and Hissong lost 7-5, 6-3 to Northwestern’s Smith and Wilson, setting up the matchup in the consolation final.
“Northwestern was a good team,” Milton-Union coach Diana Finfrock said. “I was proud of my girls. They played well in that match.”
“We had a tough two matches today,” said Tippecanoe coach Kaci Matthews, who also happens to be Finfrock’s daughter. “Everyone here at the sectional is comparable. There’s a lot of similarities between all of the teams, so it was good for the girls to play good competition. We’re lucky to come from this area, which has so many good players.”
Wombold and Hissong — who eliminated Tippecanoe’s other doubles team in three sets in the quarterfinal match to qualify for next week’s district tournament — dominated Saturday’s consolation final, winning 6-2, 6-2 to take third, while Coning and Stewart will go into district as a No. 4 seed.
“Ashley and Abby played really well today,” Finfrock said. “We’ve been working hard on their positioning and moving together, and they seem to be getting it a little better. We put some pressure on Tipp, which was nice. They were at the net moving around a bit. We were unseeded and ended up third, so we did pretty well there. I’m proud of my girls.”
“We’re looking forward to districts,” Matthews said. “We’re going to be working hard all week. Hats off to Milton and KR, though. They came prepared. My girls are better than that, but at the same time, we got to see a lot of things today that we need to work on.”
The Division I and II district tournaments will be held at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason Thursday and Saturday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.