Both qualified doubles teams in search of state titles this weekend.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
Junior tennis players Rachel McGowan and Renee Lesnett could be the best doubles team that Canfield High has ever assembled.
You won't get an argument from Pat Pavlansky, who's in his 10th season as the Cardinals' head coach.
"Rachel hits the ball harder than anybody we've ever had on the team," Pavlansky said, "and Renee just has a knack of putting the ball in the right place all the time.
"Hopefully they continue to do that for another week."
They'll get that chance on the state's biggest stage -- the Division I state tournament this weekend at Ohio State University's Stickney Tennis Center.
"We've been blessed with a lot of talent at Canfield," said Pavlansky, who's qualified seven doubles teams to Columbus. "We've had a few runners-up and a third place, but we've never had a state title.
"That's the goal, and we're going to see if we can get it done."
The Cardinals will be joined in Columbus by Poland's doubles team of junior Samantha Gett and freshman Jessica Mullis, who qualified in Div. II.
McGowan and Lesnett aren't unfamiliar to the state tournament scene, having qualified last year in singles. Lesnett also advanced as a freshman.
But last spring, Pavlansky paired Canfield's top two singles players together to form a powerful doubles team. So far, they haven't disappointed, posting eight straight wins that have netted sectional and district championships.
"The neat thing is, they're still getting better," Pavlansky said. "Every time they go out, they're improving some part of their doubles game that they didn't have the last time out. That's the fun part."
Lately, it's been their positioning on the court. They're finding a comfort level that allows them to be most efficient.
"If the girls put themselves in good position to make a shot, they're good enough to make the shot," Pavlansky said. "Doubles is a lot of positioning -- where you place the ball and where your body is at.
"They've become better at that the last couple of weeks."
The Cardinals will open play on Friday in the single-elimination tournament against seniors Jennifer Kelly and Jayne Suddleson of West Chester Lakota West.
Two wins will get the Cardinals into the semifinals.
"The whole idea in Columbus is trying to get to that final four on Saturday," Pavlansky said. "If you get there on Saturday, anything can happen in one day."
Poland's long distance chat
When Gett and Mullis finished fourth at last week's district level to qualify for state, Poland coach Pam Steinhauser wasn't around to enjoy the experience firsthand.
Instead, Steinhauser was in Tucson, Ariz., playing in a national tennis event, and had to settle for a telephone conversation with her girls.
"I was crying; they were crying," said Steinhauser, who flew back Monday night. "I can't wait to see them."
Because her top six players are interchangeable, Steinhauser said, she had a good feeling Poland would be represented in Columbus.
The Bulldogs nearly qualified two doubles teams, but Megan Bennett and Alexa Marino missed by one place at last weekend's district tournament.
That left Gett, whose fort & eacute; is her play at the net, and Mullis, a strong lobber, with the state honor.
"They're both scrappers. They're both very fast, and they have a good chemistry with each other," said Steinhauser, whose husband, Alan, coached Poland last weekend.
In their state opener Friday, the Bulldogs will face junior Kate Goudy and freshman Torrie Goudy of Galion.