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by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
When you've been there so many times, the journey may lose some of its luster the more often it happens.
That's not the case for Hudson senior Molly Sandberg.
It keeps getting better and better each time.
Sandberg reached the Division I state tennis tournament for the fourth time in her career.
That became official after she earned a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Rocky River Magnificat's Alexandra Vesikallio in the quarterfinals at a Division I district tournament. The tournament took place Oct. 13 at Springside Racquet & Fitness Club in Akron.
Sandberg, who improved to 34-0 in 2016 and is 75-1 since the beginning of the 2015 season, also posted a 6-0, 6-1 win over Warren Howland's Isabella Elisco to reach the quarterfinals.
Sandberg was scheduled to play for one of the top four seeds Oct. 15 at Springside Racquet & Fitness Club. Results were not available at press time.
The state tournament is set to take place Oct. 21 and 22 at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
Sandberg ended her quarterfinal match in style. She smashed an ace on match point.
"It still feels like it's the first time I made it," Sandberg said. "I was pretty excited. I went up to my coaches [Hudson head coach Tim Morgan and Lady Explorers' assistant coach Janice Kampf] and gave them high fives."
For much of the season, Sandberg hasn't needed to break much of a sweat against too many of her opponents.
Vesikallio, on the other hand, certainly got Sandberg's attention right away.
"She was pretty good," Sandberg said. "She hit some good angles and she hit her backhand nicely."
Sandberg had a 5-2 lead, but Vesikallio got a service break and held her serve.
But Sandberg regained her composure and dominated the rest of the way.
"Vesikallio went out there as if she had nothing to lose," Morgan said. "It was great tennis that was really enjoyable to watch. It was really great to see Molly rise up and show another level."
Last year, Sandberg finished third at the state competition.
But she'll worry about such things later.
The senior wants to enjoy the final high school tournament of her career as much as possible.
"Honestly, I'm still thinking about districts," Sandberg said. "It's nice to follow in my brother Aaron's footsteps and get there four years in a row.
"I'm happy to play for my school and where I'm from -- Hudson."
Aaron was a four-time state qualifier at Walsh Jesuit. He is a junior on the Brown (Providence, R.I.) men's tennis team.
Sandberg will be the lone Lady Explorer at the state tournament.
Hudson's doubles team of senior Grace Graham and junior Jenny Gan lost its first match.
Graham and Gan suffered a 6-1, 6-2 defeat to North Canton Hoover's pair of Alessa Koinoglu and Hallie Hunt.
Graham finished 21-13 in 2016 and Gan finished with a 20-14 record.
"Grace and Jenny did a great job," Morgan said. "The scores didn't indicate the closeness of the match. Grace played well as a senior and Jenny started off slow and then found herself during the match."