OBERLIN — Looks like the Dunbars and Sandbergs are going to develop quite a rivalry — if they haven’t already.
For the second straight week, Walsh Jesuit freshman singles player Molly Sandberg defeated Cloverleaf freshman Emily Dunbar in a postseason championship match, this one a 6-2, 6-2 decision Saturday at the Oberlin College Division I District.
A week earlier, Sandberg downed Dunbar 6-4, 6-3 in the Medina Sectional final.
At the 2013 boys state tournament, Dunbar’s older brother, Jacob, defeated Sandberg’s older brother, Aaron, for the D-I singles title.
Jacob graduated from Cloverleaf a year early and is now a freshman playing at the University of Richmond, while Aaron is a senior at Walsh.
Emily Dunbar and Molly Sandberg probably haven’t seen the last of one another at the high school level, as both qualified for the state tournament and will have three more years of eligibility remaining.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Dunbar said of future meetings with Sandberg. “I’m probably going to be playing her a lot. I’ll just have to be ready.”
Dunbar (27-2), the first Cloverleaf girl to qualify for state, didn’t play her best Saturday, but the way Sandberg was hitting the ball, it might not have mattered.
“I was a little inconsistent, just like last time, but Molly played very well,” Dunbar said. “I don’t know if I could have done anything, anyway.”
Normally a very patient player, Sandberg was more aggressive in the district final than she was in the sectional meeting.
“Right from the get-go, Emily was down and just seemed a little tired,” Cloverleaf coach Brenda Hewit said. “Molly played probably better than she did at sectionals. She changed her game plan.
“Emily was thinking it was going to be a lot of lobs and Molly came out hitting it hard. Emily started out with a few errors and it seemed like she never got into a good rhythm.”
That wasn’t the case in the district semifinals, where Dunbar downed Canton Sectional champion and returning state qualifier Tessa Hill of Jackson 6-2, 6-4.
“She was making some errors at the beginning and I was keeping her off balance,” Dunbar said. “In the second set, she changed her game completely. She started to lob and got everything in. I just tried to take the ball on the rise and move her from side to side. I guess it worked.”
Dunbar went up 3-0 to start the second set, but Hill battled back and made things interesting before Dunbar regrouped and closed out the match.
“Emily stayed focused and patient,” Hewit said. “She really persevered in that set.”
Next up for Dunbar is the 16-player D-I state singles tournament, which begins Friday at 9 a.m. at the OSU Outdoor Varsity Tennis Courts and concludes Saturday with semifinal, final and third-place matches.
“I’m excited,” she said. “I’m happy to be supporting my school. Hopefully I can do well at state and support it even more.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.