By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Alyx Lynham and Amy Varckette have a certain quality that makes them a little different. That quality is, perhaps, a big reason the Geneva doubles team will be making an appearance at the Division II Ohio State Tennis Championships this weekend.
“They have something I can’t quite describe within themselves,” Geneva coach Scott Torok said. “It keeps them coming back. They could have been happy with just getting to the district tournament, especially when they went into the back draw.
“They keep fighting. It’s a tribute to them. It’s something you just can’t coach.”
The Eagles’ duo qualified for the state tournament with a fifth-place finish at the district tourney in Canton over the weekend.
“It’s feels awesome,” Lynham, a senior, said. “It doesn’t seem real. It won’t quite feel real until we get on the court in Columbus.
“We kind of paused for a moment when it was over to let it sink in.”
“It’s extremely exciting,” Varckette, a freshman said. “We were jumping up and down, screaming and crying. It was so emotional.
“As soon as the other girl hit the ball into the net, we stood there for a second, then we started jumping up and down, we hugged each other, then we were running around and hugging our parents.”
Lynham and Varckette will play Meili Martin and Minda Martin of Chesapeake at Ohio State University on Friday. The Martins finished fourth at the state tournament in 2012.
“I heard they were in the semifinals at state last year,” Varckette said. “It tells me they could be really good. Hopefully, Alyx and I play the best we can and give them a run for their money.”
“Obviously, they’re one of the top 16 teams in the state of Ohio,” Lynham said. “Every match will be a great match. We expect awesome players. We can only play the best we can and leave it all out on the court.”
Lynham and Varckette have made a believer in Torok with the way they’ve survived so far in the postseason.
“In the past week, I’ve changed my outlook,” he said. “Anything can happen. It will be tough. They’ve accomplished their goal. It’s all gravy.
“I’ve made the comment to a couple of coaches that we’ve gone to districts a lot over the years. We’re pretty familiar with the district tournament. We’ve always been overwhelmed by the competition. But this year, I don’t know if we’ve gotten better or the competition has lessened, but it feels like we belong.”
Knowing the level of competition will again be raised, Lynham and Varckette understand staying relaxed will be important.
“We made state,” Lynham said. “We surpassed our goal. Now, we want to play the best we can, have a lot of fun and leave it all on the court.”
“We’re capable of being so good,” Varckette said. “We can’t put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We have to have fun, realize we’re at the state tournament and just try and take it all in.”
Lynham and Varckette are the first Geneva girls to qualify for the state tourney since Courtney Brenkus made it in 2000.
“It’s priceless,” Torok said. “We went once in 2000 with Courtney Brenkus. This is the goal. We have a lot of great players, but nobody’s gone that extra step. Not taking anything away from those other girls, but (Lynham and Varckette) are more determined, I think.”
“It’s definitely a once in a lifetime experience to play at Ohio State,” Varckette said. “I just think the atmosphere will be exciting. It will be great. We’ll just take in as much as we can and have fun with it.”
The Eagles are still improving with every match and look to continue that trend.
“Obviously, they did quite well (at the district),” Torok said. “I really think they can play better. Their goal is to take the next step. I think they can give somebody a go at the state tournament.”
With that in mind, the possibilities may be endless.
“Having watched them play, they’re making errors here and there,” Torok said. “Everyone makes errors, but these are errors they can correct.
“Now, it’s about how much they want it. A lot of girls have the girl to get there. Now that they’re in the top 16, it’s about how far they want to go, who wants it more.”
Lynham’s career will end at some point during the weekend.
“I definitely want to keep the season going as long as possible,” Varckette said. “It’s been a big part of (Lynham’s) career. It’s a big part of her life and it’s coming to an end. We’re losing one of Geneva’s best players over the last two years.
“It’s hard knowing it will be her last match sometime this week.”
“I imagine it will be an overwhelming feeling,” Lynham said. “I’ve worked as hard as I could. I wouldn’t change anything. It’s the best possible way I could end this.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.