WADSWORTH — It was the kind of high school tennis match where both Medina County teams had reason to be happy.
Led by a steady, intelligent performance from talented first singles player Emily Hadler, Highland stayed unbeaten Thursday with a 3-2 non-league win over Wadsworth, which got a huge victory from second singles player Hannah Jarolim.
The Hornets (8-0) are the favorite to repeat as Suburban League American Conference champions, while the Grizzlies (7-2), who compete in the SL National Conference, are having a solid season despite suffering heavy losses to graduation.
“I thought we hung in there tough,” Wadsworth coach Kristy Nichol said. “We knew Highland was a tough team coming in. I thought we put in a solid effort.”
The Grizzlies did that, but Hadler and the Hornets proved to be too much. In the marquee match, Hadler downed Gabriela Heideman 6-2, 6-1 in a battle between sophomores who were first-team All-Gazette picks in 2016.
“Her forehand was definitely her strongest shot,” Hadler said. “I was trying to play to her backhand and make her hit one more ball.”
Heideman (6-3), who played against Hadler (8-0) several times in the offseason, won a number of impressive points, but her go-for-broke style resulted in numerous unforced errors on a windy afternoon.
“She’s a really good player when she makes her shots,” said Hadler, a district qualifier a year ago. “She can really hit the ball and she’s strong.”
The Hornets, on paper the strongest team in the county, got their other points from third singles player Joelle Petek, who beat Alicia Shepard 6-3, 6-1, and the second doubles team of Maddie Arbuckle and Julia Gillin, which downed Meredith Van Dyke and Melissa Corbett 6-4, 6-1.
“We want to win the league again, that’s for sure,” Hadler said. “We also want to beat some of the teams we didn’t last year, like Medina.”
Wadsworth got its first point from the first doubles team of Naty Kaser and Patricia De Minon, which downed Stephanie Fannin and Jonna Jaroska 6-4, 6-1.
The last match to conclude was the most entertaining, as the Grizzlies’ Jarolim downed Rachel Fannin 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (4) at second singles.
Previously a doubles player who was first-team All-Gazette as a freshman and sophomore and honorable mention last year, Jarolim improved to 8-1 while handing Fannin, an All-Gazette pick last year as a freshman, her first loss in eight matches this season.
“There’s a lot more running and you have to learn ball movement,” said Jarolim, who prepped for her switch to singles by playing in a United States Tennis Association women’s league in the offseason. “I was not expecting this (much success). I thought it would be a tough transition, but it’s going really well so far.”
Fannin, who won three matches to reach the D-I sectional quarterfinals a year ago, was up 5-3 in the third set and serving for the match, but Jarolim got the break she needed. Fannin had two match points on Jarolim’s ensuing serve, but the Wadsworth senior fought back to get to 5-5.
“I try not to think about the score,” Jarolim said. “I try to play my game and take one point at a time.”
Both players held serve to send the final set into a tiebreaker, where Jarolim jumped to a 6-1 lead. The left-handed Fannin won three points before Jarolim closed things.
“This is huge,” Jarolim said. “I was coming back the whole third set. In the tiebreaker, I thought if I got ahead I’d have less pressure. I was up 6-1 and she got a few, but I knew I only had to get one more point.”
Highland 3, Wadsworth 2
Singles: Emily Hadler (H) def. Gabriela Heideman, 6-2, 6-1; Hannah Jarolim (W) def. Rachel Fannin, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (4); Joelle Petek (H) def. Alicia Shepard, 6-3, 6-1. Doubles: Naty Kaser/Patricia De Minon (W) def. Stephanie Fannin/Jonna Jaroska, 6-4, 6-1; Maddie Arbuckle/Julia Gillin (H) def. Meredith Van Dyke/Melissa Corbett, 6-4, 6-1. Records: Highland (8-0), Wadsworth (7-2).