The hard part is over for Kenton Ridge’s Macy Wallace and Northwestern’s Bree Latting and Gianna Embry. Now that they’ve qualified for the Division II district tennis tournament the plan is to enjoy the experience and atmosphere where some of the world’s greatest players have appeared.
The trio will represent Clark County at Thursday’s tournament held at the Lindner Family Tennis Center near Mason. That’s also the site of the Western & Southern Open, won by tennis greats like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.
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“It’s an amazing experience to go to district because of the courts you get to play on and the people you meet,” said Wallace, who makes her second trip after qualifying in doubles last season. “Amazing people have played there and it’s like, yeah I’m playing there, too. It fires you up a little bit. You’re on edge and ready to play. It’s a lot harder because Cincinnati has some great girls. We’ll see how it goes but I still think it’s going to be great.”
Wallace – whose mental game is as strong as her physical one – knows how taxing the D-II district tournament can be facing perennial powers like Cincinnati’s Indian Hill and Seven Hills as well as Dayton juggernauts Oakwood, Chaminade Julienne and Alter, among others. It’s a sigh of relief qualifying for district, but neither Wallace nor the doubles team of Latting and Embry have plans on treating their matches as breathers.
“I’m hoping to at least win a set in the first match,” Wallace said of her happy-go-lucky approach to district.
“It’s very intimidating the first year you go knowing it’s so big and some of the best players in the world have played there,” Kenton Ridge coach Sherri Bennett said. “The second time, she should feel more at ease.”
After going 17-1 at No. 2 singles for the Cougars last season, Wallace moved into the No. 1 role and finished 15-3 in the regular season. She took third at the D-II sectional tournament in Troy last week.
On Thursday, Wallace opens district play against No. 2 seed Jessie Budde, a freshman from Indian Hill.
Northwestern’s Latting and Embry, who finished fourth at sectionals, play seniors Jillian Blatt and Natalie Choo, a No. 1 seed from Seven Hills.
The Warriors played No. 1 doubles together during the regular season and finished 17-4. They went 2-2 at sectional.
“We saw the way they were hitting and thought they were playing district caliber tennis,” Northwestern coach Kevin Fraker said of the team’s late-season form. “We’re having fun watching them get this far. It’s very tough to get out and I’d love to see them win one match.”
The pair complement each other with Latting’s aggressive net game and Embry’s backcourt ability to chase down balls and hit her spots on returns.
“They just naturally play well together,” Fraker said. “We’re excited they made it to the district tournament and get to see the ATP, which is a fantastic facility.”
Wallace, meanwhile, brings a strong slice and even tougher mental game to the Lindner Tennis Center. Playing No. 1 singles – and frequently taking on the area’s top players – helped her work on staying calm even when points weren’t going her way. She said she struggled with that part of her game last season.
“The first thing you do is doubt yourself. You have to turn it around and use it to win the match,” Wallace said. “I think I’ve gotten better.”
One turning points came last season at the sectional tournament. Wallace, playing doubles with then-senior teammate Olivia Sellars, had doubts if the they could navigate the sectional field. They did.
“She has a lot of determination and she’s super competitive,” Bennett said. “Sometimes that’s half the battle. If she gets into a funk you can get her out. She has the ability to talk herself in the right direction. … She’s a really nice girl and I enjoy being around her. I sent her a text the other day telling her she was so easy to coach. She’s a great kid and comes from a great family.”