MASON — Finishing a comeback that started Thursday afternoon, Wilmington’s Claire Burns will represent Clinton County at the state tennis tournament next week back here at the Lindner Family Tennis Center.
Burns defeated Rashi Loni of Mason 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 Friday in a Division I Southwest District Girls Tennis Championship quarterfinal match.
Burns will be the first girls tennis player from a Clinton County school to participate in the state tennis tournament.
The quarterfinal match started Thursday but was postponed to Friday because of rain.
As head coach Doug Cooper surmised, the delay didn’t slow Burns’ momentum. It only paused it. With shadows stretching their arms across Court 4, Burns was up 4-1 when play resumed and held serve to win when Loni’s final shot sailed wide of the sideline stripe.
“I’m happy about it,” a calm Burns said following her match.
The delay also added to the drama, a little bit too much so for Burns’ liking.
“I didn’t realize there was pressure until I got here today,” she said. “I always get nervous before a match. But when I came back today I realized what pressure was. It the was most pressure I’ve felt before.”
As the coach and player made the 30-minute trek from Wilmington to Mason Friday afternoon, Cooper believed Burns was in a good place.
“There was less pressure on the van ride,” he said. “I didn’t want to add to the pressure. The state tournament was on the line, that’s enough pressure.”
With a 28-3 record, Burns knows there’s more work to do.
At 10 a.m. Saturday, she’ll return to LFTC Court 4 to face Elizabeth Pendergast of St. Ursula Academy in one of two semifinal matches.
Pendergast defeated Aubrey Ferrell of Nortmont 6-0, 6-1 in the first round then blanked Anna Tonkal of Mason 6-0, 6-0 in the second round.
Pendergast, a senior, was defeated in the first round of the state tournament last season.
The players in the other semifinal match are Shyla Aggarwal of Mason and Alexis Covington of Walnut Hills.
There will be a third-place match. But Burns, a sectional champion, doesn’t want to think of that.
“The pressure round is over,” Cooper said. “She’s there now. Just like going from sectional to district, she knows how significant the No. 1 seed is.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @wnjsports