by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Perhaps there is a chink in her armor.
After breezing through her National Conference opponents at the Suburban League Tournament the previous week, Hudson senior tennis player Molly Sandberg proved to be a little more vulnerable during Division I sectional play.
It's safe to say that losing a total of one game in five matches is nothing to fret about.
Sandberg captured her second straight sectional title as a member of the Lady Explorers during the Medina Division I sectional tournament.
The tournament concluded Oct. 8 at Springside Racquet & Fitness Club in Akron.
As a result, Sandberg, who did not lose a single game during the Suburban League Tournament, will be the top seed at district play, which is scheduled to begin Aug. 13 and 15 at Springside.
Play is set to begin at 9 a.m. both days.
Two of her teammates plan to join Sandberg in Akron. Hudson's doubles' team of senior Grace Graham and junior Jenny Gan also advanced.
Sandberg, who finished third at the 2015 Division I state tournament, won her quarterfinal match Oct. 6 and then won her semifinal and championship matches Oct. 8.
Sandberg cruised to 6-0, 6-0 victories over North Royalton's Noelle Kidd in the quarterfinals and Medina Highland's Emily Hadler in the semifinals.
Sandberg claimed the title with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Walsh Jesuit's Gabriella Constantini. Sandberg improved to 32-0 on the season.
"Right now, the biggest thing for Molly is to stay as focused as she can," Lady Explorers head coach Tim Morgan said. "Based on the scores, she was the class of the field. She did a good job of staying as assertive as she can be."
Sandberg's serve and just about everything else she had in her repertoire worked beautifully, according to Morgan.
"Her serve has definitely improved," he said. "She runs the court well and when she gets the right ball, she can do a lot with it. She is constructing points well. She knows when to go for a large shot."
Last year, Sandberg won a district title en route to a 40-match winning streak before finally falling in the state semifinals.
"She's obviously favored [at districts]," Morgan said. "Our strategy is play one at a time. Let's get the next one."
Graham and Gan showed grace under pressure during its quarterfinal match.
They sealed their district fate after earning a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Medina's team of Makayla Velic and Sam Ott.
Graham and Gan lost their semifinal match to Hudson resident Caroline Dickinson and Megan Hissong 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals.
But they bounced back to get the third seed after posting a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over Wadsworth's Hannah Jarolim and Ashley Tittle.
Graham is now 21-12 on the season and Gan's record is 20-13.
"Grace and Jenny got fired up after losing the first set against Wadsworth," Morgan said. "I felt they made some uncharacteristic errors early.
"In the second set, they hit a stretch of games where they played some really smart doubles."
Both players did what they do best en route to their comeback.
"Jenny served well under pressure and hit some critical returns," Morgan said. "Grace did a good job from a leadership perspective. She attacked the net within reason."
Senior Isabelle Mawby's season and career came to an end after suffering a 7-6 (7-3), 6-1 loss to Cora Shane of Cuyahoga Falls in the quarterfinals. Mawby finished 19-13 in 2016.
"I would say Cora and Isabelle are equals on the court," Morgan said. "We knew it could go either way.
"Isabelle makes her opponent hit a lot of balls. She did a great job of putting herself in a position to win the first set."
Morgan has had the pleasure of seeing Mawby at a lot of practices and a lot of matches over the years.
"What people don't appreciate is that Isabelle was a varsity player all four years," he said. "That's a great accomplishment for her.
"Isabelle never backs away from a big match. She always wants to play and always wants to play her best. Even though she lost [Oct. 6], she came back to support the girls."
Also competing for the Lady Explorers was sophomore Susie Fan. After winning three matches to reach the quarterfinals, Fan lost to Hadler 6-1, 6-0 Oct. 6. She finished 21-12 in 2016.
"Susie beat two players who others might have perceived to be better than her [Oct. 5]," Morgan said. "Those were two great wins. Her loss [Oct. 6] doesn't take anything away from what she accomplished this season. She played with maturity and confidence beyond her years."
Dickinson and Hissong wound up losing in the final to teammates Paige Carmichael and Skye Harwood 6-3, 5-7, 6-3. Dickinson and Hissong earned a 6-2, 6-2 victory over North Royalton's team of Cassie Shokles and Liz Kelly in the quarterfinals. Dickinson is 24-3 in 2016.