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HILLSBORO – Though she had swept all of the singles matches against conference opponents during the regular season, Vandalia sophomore Hannah Blythe had her work cut out for her at Monday’s conference tournament.
Still, Blythe prevailed as the South Central Conference champion, despite getting entangled against unfamiliar opponents.
“I’m thrilled for her,” said coach Dana Kern. “Having been a player myself, I know what type of effort this takes, and she works harder than anyone I have ever seen.
“She showed good composure today,” she said. “She had good strategies, a good attitude and represented our team well.”
All of the other three teams in the conference used their No. 1 singles player for doubles, leaving Blythe to square off against singles players who she hadn’t faced all season.
And one of them even gave her quite the scare.
Greenville’s Anya Thomas – typically the Lady Comets’ No. 3 singles player – pushed Blythe in a nearly two-hour match that saw Blythe prevail, 7-5, 6-4.
Thomas – who played defensively the entire match – was able to chase down most of Blythe’s offensive strikes, leaving Blythe frustrated.
The players played a back-and-forth first set, with Blythe taking command late, allowing Thomas just one point within the final two game points.
Blythe looked poised to make easy work of the second set, taking a 4-1 lead, but Thomas rallied for the next three points.
After earning a break point on Thomas’ next serve, Blythe needed just four serves to finish off the semifinal match.
“Their styles were different,” Kern said. “Thomas was quick enough to get to the balls Hannah was hitting, and the rest of the day, it seemed like the players weren’t that quick.”
She would match up with another Greenville player in the finals, taking on regular No. 2 player Kelsea Guy.
Guy was no match for Blythe, however, as Blythe had little trouble securing the 6-0, 6-1 victory in the championship match.
The only real blemishes for Blythe in the title match were allowing Guy to serve to eight deuce points during the first set and allowing her one point during the second set.
“It was like she turned on the after-burners in the third match, and said, ‘I’m ready for this to be over,’” Kern said. “We were all excited that she got the win today.”
Blythe won a first-round match, 6-2, 6-0, and all of Vandalia’s other players were eliminated in the first round.
With the three wins, Blythe is now 16-2 in singles this season, and that should ensure her a high seed at this Friday’s sectional tournament in Effingham.
She, and the rest of the Lady Vandals, will begin play at 1 p.m. at several different courts within the city.
“We’ll probably take about the same lineup,” Kern said. “There are some tough teams there, but I think we have a good possibility of having some success.”
Monday's lineup included senior Krystyn Nichols in singles, and doubles teams of senior Karlee Brimberry/junior Courtney Ulmer, and senior Megan Dothager/freshman Emma Meyer.
The final regular-season match of the season against Teutopolis was canceled due to rain on Tuesday afternoon.