ATHENS, Ohio — Having battled back to force a third and decisive set, the Wilcoxons were one set away from a weekend near Kings Island.
Unfortunately, their thrill ride — and Adriana Wilcoxon’s tennis career — came to an end.
That’s because Gallia Academy’s Pierce and Adriana Wilcoxon, competing in the Division II Southeast-East District tennis tournament for the second consecutive season, finished as district doubles semifinalists Saturday inside Ohio University’s Golf & Tennis Center in Athens.
The Wilcoxons, having won the Southeast District sectional at Portsmouth for the second straight spring, were once again the top-seeded squad in the doubles tournament on Saturday — and placed in the final four for the second straight year.
They drew a bye in the 12-team opening round, then prevailed over East Liverpool’s Klayton Kosak and Isaac Davidson in the quarterfinals 7-6 (tiebreaker), 7-5.
However, with a state tournament berth at stake in the semifinal match against Cambridge’s Clay McCauley and Andrew Eddy, the Wilcoxons fell in a hard-fought 3-6, 6-2, 3-6 affair that ended their career as a team.
While Pierce is only a sophomore, Saturday’s tournament marked the final matches for his senior sister Adriana.
Both Wilcoxons were emotional after the semifinal match, especially Adriana — a towel over her head and tears in her eyes.
“It’s a heartbreaker, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I’m very proud of both of them and what they’ve been able to accomplish,” said Gallia Academy coach Randy Christian.
And, what the GAHS brother-sister act accomplished in the postseason is indeed remarkable.
They went a perfect 10-for-10 in sectional matches, then went 1-1 in both of their district tournaments together.
This year’s entire district event was played indoors, though, due to Saturday’s rain that forced the doubles teams off their traditional outdoor courts.
Thus, the Wilcoxons were playing their first postseason matches indoors — and against teams they had never faced.
Consider also that since Adriana and Pierce played primarily singles matches in the regular season, Saturday’s competition marked only their sixth and seventh matches all year as an actual doubles team.
“They are both outdoor players, and had we played outside today, that might have made a difference,” said Christian. “Playing indoors kind of throws it off a little bit. You have a shorter backcourt, you can take advantage of that low height and ceiling. It’s just a different atmosphere in here.”
In the quarterfinal match, the Wilcoxons swept a thrilling contest against the East Liverpool freshmen, which included the first-set tiebreaker before the 7-5 second set.
Christian said that he believed Kosak and Davidson, despite being the Wilcoxons’ first opponents, “were actually a little better.”
“That first match was a tough one. I thought that East Liverpool team was one of the better teams here, especially for an opening-round (quarterfinal) match,” said the coach. “But they (Wilcoxons) found a way to come back and find themselves in that second set. They just rolled off a lot of games and won.”
And, that win moved them into the semifinals, where they were the only Southeast District doubles club remaining.
The other semifinal featured the other squads from Cambridge and East Liverpool.
McCauley and Eddy, like the Wilcoxons for the Blue Devils, played first and second singles all year for the Bobcats — then joined forces for the postseason.
The top seed from the Cambridge sectional, McCauley and Eddy offered a contrasting style to Kosak and Davidson.
They had the Wilcoxons down 1-0, 3-2 and 4-3 in the opening set, and rallied from down 3-2 in the third.
“They (Bobcats) were two completely different styles of players from the first match, so we had to adjust to that,” said Christian. “What was working in the first match wasn’t working in the second with a lot of the lobs and such. So we had to switch around and try to change things up. They (Wilcoxons) set points up really well in that second set.”
The Wilcoxons were on their game in the second set, leading 4-1 and 5-2 before winning 6-2.
“They were serving and she (Adriana) was cutting off the volleys,” said Christian. “But they just couldn’t do that in the third set. And I think fatigue sets in a little bit in the third set. You start making errors and the pressure is on…it’s just a pressure game at that point and that age.”
Speaking of age, Adriana graduated from GAHS on Friday night — and had her graduation party on Sunday.
She is bound for Miami (Ohio) University, leaving Gallia Academy with the second-best regular-season career record behind only Connor Christian — the coach’s son.
“It’s been a great four years of watching her (Adriana) play. She digs everything out and gives her best and loves to compete at the highest level possible,” said Christian. “I’ve never seen her slack off or let down. Just a great player, and was the only girl player here today.”
Indeed, Adriana now ventures to southwestern Ohio — although the Wilcoxons were quite hopeful a weekend near Kings Island was in the cards as well.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106