by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
It seems like the Hudson girls tennis team sends at least one player to the state tournament just about every year.
The Lady Explorers have been really fortunate the last two years.
In both 2011 and 2012, Hudson had one singles' player and one doubles team get invitations to Columbus.
Whether that happens this year is anybody's guess.
But the Lady Explorers will have an opportunity to do accomplish such a lofty feat for the third consecutive year.
Hudson will be sending three players to a Division I district tournament after their performances at a sectional competition, which concluded Oct. 5 at Medina High School.
The Lady Explorers' doubles team of senior Connie Chen and Grace Graham finished second and senior Kati Mdzinarishvili placed third in singles. They are scheduled to play in a district tournament Oct. 10 at Oberlin College. Play is set to begin at 9 a.m.
If the three players reach the semifinals of their respective brackets at Oberlin College, they will advance to the state competition.
"Everyone is capable," Hudson head coach Tim Morgan said. "The stakes are higher and the pressure is higher. Do I like their chances? Yes, but I also don't believe it's going to be a walkover. They're going to have to compete."
Chen and Graham lost a 6-2, 6-1 decision to Walsh's Gina Costanzo and Emily Hissong in the final. They reached the final by earning a 7-5, 7-6 win against Walsh's Caroline Dickinson, a Hudson resident, and Paige Carmichael in the semifinals.
Chen and Graham also earned a 7-5, 6-3 win over a team from Wooster in the quarterfinals.
"It was an accomplishment for Connie and Grace to finish second," Morgan said. "All year long, I felt they were getting better."
Chen is known for her ability to attack at the net.
"Connie gives us some leadership," Morgan said. "She stays calm all the time and provides a lot of offense at the net. You don't see any general flaws in her game. She is really consistent."
Graham complements her partner's aggressiveness at the net with her ability to hit from the baseline.
"Grace has good forehand and backhand strokes," Morgan said. "She takes advantage of her opportunities in the front court. She is very spirited."
Mdzinarishvili lost a 6-3, 6-0 decision to Hudson resident Molly Sandberg of Walsh in the semifinals. Sandberg, who scored a 6-0, 6-0 victory against Copley's Rachel Hopkins in her quarterfinal match, went on to win the singles' title by earning a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Lodi Cloverleaf's Emily Dunbar.
Mdzinarishvili punched her ticket to district play with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Strongsville's Kelly Peskura in the quarterfinals. She took third when Medina's Emma Deimling was forced to default the match due to an injury.
"Kati put herself in a position to make it to districts," Morgan said. "Kati had her opportunities in the semifinal match, but her shots either went wide or long of the marks."
Mdzinarishvili's game is based on power.
"Kati is a strong baseliner," Morgan said. "She has strong ground strokes and she can really attack it. On any day, she can be competitive."
Dickinson and Carmichael posted a 6-1, 6-0 win over a team from Wadsworth in the consolation final to finish third. They earned a 6-1, 6-2 victory over a team from Cuyahoga Falls in their quarterfinal match.
Also competing in the quarterfinals was the Lady Explorers' senior doubles team of Vanessa Kreiss and Sujude Dalieh. They lost a 6-2, 6-1 decision to Costanzo and Hissong.
"They played extremely well against a first seed," Morgan said. "The score might not have indicated it. It's always tough for seniors, but they still have a chance to qualify for states as a team."
Hudson is set to visit North Canton Hoover in a Northeast Ohio Tennis Coaches Association district semifinal match Oct. 8 at 4 p.m.