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Sisters represent Panthers in tennis

Oct. 16, 2012 @ 12:09 AM

CHESAPEAKE -- When school lets out for the day, players on the boys or girls tennis teams head to the courts for practice or matches.

At Chesapeake High School, Meili and Minda Martin head either to the High Intensity Training (HIT) Center in Huntington, Huntington Tennis Club in Barboursville or any court they can find for their workout. Chesapeake doesn't have a tennis program, but that hasn't stopped the Martin sisters from representing their school in competition.

In Ohio, athletes are allowed to compete for a state championship even if the school doesn't field a team. The Martins are a doubles team and began their quest for a Division II title by going 5-0 in the sectional tournament on Oct. 2-3 in Portsmouth and 3-0 in the district tournament last Wednesday at Ohio University in Athens.

That made the Martins the No. 1 seed from the Southeast District for the State Tournament scheduled Friday and Saturday in Columbus. Singles and doubles matches are Friday at Ohio State. Action moves to Hilliard Davidson High School on Saturday for the semifinals and finals.

"We decided to give it a try," Meili, who is a junior, said Monday during an interview in the cafeteria after school had ended for the day.

"I thought it would be fun. Being with my sister has made it more fun," added Minda, a freshman.

Matt Martin, their father, also is their coach. He took the necessary coaching courses Ohio requires.

"He gets us there," Meili said, talking about the trips to sectional and district events and the impending trip to Ohio's state capital. "I'll try to get some sleep."

While some see this as the Martins making school history, they downplay the achievement.

"It feels good, but I wish we had a tennis team," Meili said.

At the sectional, Minda admitted to being on edge. Meili provided a calming effect.

"I was nervous," Minda said. "I was shocked. I didn't know anything about our opponent. I didn't know what to expect."

"I stayed calm," Meili said. "I'd been there."

The past two years, Meili competed in singles, but didn't make it past sectionals.

In the sectional, the Martins won their first three matches in straight sets, 6-0, 6-0. They beat Waverly's Sheridan McClain and Madison Patrick in the semifinals, 6-1, 6-0, and Katie O' Neill and Jessica Schmidt of Portsmouth Notre Dame in the title match, 6-2, 6-1. They posted straight-set wins in their first two matches in Athens and met O'Neill and Schmidt in the finals again, this time winning 6-1, 6-3.

"I wasn't as nervous. I knew what it was like," Minda said.

"We held our own. We didn't play that hot, but well enough," Meili said. "I just hope we can keep this up."

The Martins will face Lucy Grierson and Alex Riegelsberger of Rocky River on Friday in one of eight first-round matches.

Joking aside, the sisters agreed their dad has done more than just handle transportation.

"He tells us to get off to a good start. So far we have," Meili said. "He's all over this. I'm sure he'll have a battle plan."

On Sunday, the Martins traveled to the Huntington Tennis Club for a two-hour clinic. Laurie Mercer, former women's tennis coach at Marshall, runs those clinics.

"She's been huge for us," Meili said. "She tells us what we need to work on. She does anything she can to help us. She's proud of us."

At the state, Meili said she and her sister, who will be wearing purple and white school colors, will see some opponents they've faced in junior competition. The question is will they be overlooked?

"Sneak up on people? I hope so," Meili said. "We've had fun so far. I thought we could make it from the start. All the players at the state are good. That's why they're there. The goal for us is go out and play well one more time."