BELLBROOK — Nitika Arora and Maya Brink have only been playing tennis as a doubles team for a few weeks.
But their partnership started forming years ago.
“When she was on the team, she could not stop telling me how much she couldn’t wait for me to be on the team,” Brink, a Bellbrook High School freshman said.
Arora, then a freshman and now a junior, promised a good time.
“I kept telling her, ‘I can’t wait until you come join the Bellbrook tennis team. We’re gonna have so much fun together.’”
She wasn’t kidding.
The singles players joined forces to play doubles in the post-season tournament and last weekend became the first females from BHS to qualify for the Ohio High School Athletic Association state tournament, which takes place this weekend in Mason.
They were second at the Centerville Division-I sectional, and then were fourth at the Southwest District, which was held in Mason as well. They’ll play the Rocky River Magnificat team of sophomore Caroline Moritz and freshman Natalie Smitek, who were the Northeast District champs, the first round Friday.
“We had no idea,” Brink said of their groundbreaking feat. “I was pretty ecstatic because I’m only a freshman so that’s pretty big for me.”
It’s pretty big for the program as well. Making it to state was more of a wish, not a want, according to second-year coach Lauren Dever.
“Certainly our goal is to make it to district,” she said. “That was for sure. More of the aspirational goal was state. They’re singles players, which was even more impressive. I knew they were going to be good (together). I knew they were probably going to be our best option to get players to go that far and that’s why we decided to go that route.”
Aside from the actual post-season matches, Arora and Brink played just one tournament together. Yet here they are, a couple wins from being state-placers.
“I’ve been playing at the same club as her for years at this point, so i know her pretty well,” Brink said of Arora. “I know how she plays. I know what she prefers. Playing a couple times, I figured out OK, this is what she prefers. Once we figured out that we were going to be teaming together, we kind of played every single day. So it was just trial and error.”
Arora said countless hours were spent on the court hitting with and against anyone and everyone.
“It was a lot of commitment,” she said. “I have to say that we couldn’t have done it without our parents and our coaches. And our other teammate, Maddy Chappars for her support and helping us hit, along with other people that came to hit with us, as well as the pros at Five Seasons. It’s due to their support and help that we were able to make it this far. All the practices that (our parents have) taken us to.”
And there have been a lot of practices.
“I think we’ve taken one day off between sectionals and districts,” Arora said. “Even when we didn’t have practice here, we’d go get some friends and we’d hit at Five Seasons. We’ve been hitting non-stop for the last three weeks, four weeks. We didn’t take many days off during the season either.”
Dever — a state qualifier as a player at Wheelersburg High School and a four-year college player — was among those who took the court with Arora and Brink.
“Our coach is an excellent doubles player,” Arora said, not trying to purposely flatter her coach. “She’s really good and she knows what she’s doing on the court. She moves faster. When you’re playing coach, you know she’s gonna get to every ball on the court, which is something that’s important, in doubles especially, because you’re trying to take time away from your opponent. Coach Lauren had a good knowledge of doubles, she was able to teach us little tricks and things.”
How many times did the pupils beat the teacher?
“Oh, why’d you have to ask that question,” Dever said.
Sounds like we all know the answer.
“Most of the time,” Brink said.
Call that a minor upset.
“They’re awesome,” Dever said. “I actually expected to beat them. The motivation of beating your coach really kind of helped prepare them. So it worked out pretty well.”
So has teaming them up to play doubles.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.