By Dan Woodlock
Times-Junction Sports Editor
The 2015 tennis season was all about new experiences for the young Lady Flashes squad. Even down to the season finale.Thursday's opening day of the Division II Sectional Tournament at Shelby High School featured windy, cold conditions from start to finish, and an increased field of 13 schools, which extended wait times for courts with the expanded brackets. Not to mention a challenging field of opponents, which is what Willard encountered throughout the day, as the Lady Flashes' season came to a close. With nearly the entire line-up making their Sectional debuts, Willard managed to put together one last win for the season, while putting up a fight in each of the team's six matches on the day. While play was broken down into just two brackets, singles and doubles, the Lady Flashes' First Doubles duo of Jolynn Brubaker and Claire Buss (competing in just their fourth and fifth matches together as partners) knocked out St. Peter's team of Brooke Baker and Ava Cobb in the opening round, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. They nearly pulled off another three-setter in the second round against Bucyrus' Alyssa Musselman and Hadley French, before falling, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6. The win over St. Pete's was the first together for Buss and Brubaker, who finished 1-4 as partners. Buss registered a 6-16 mark for the season, with Brubaker notching a 5-17 overall record. Willard's other doubles entry, Aspen Schmidt and Addie Slone, normally the team's Second Doubles pair, could not quite get over the hump in a three-set battle that came down to a tie-breaker against Upper Sandusky's Hope Voorhees and Nadia English. The Lady Flashes fell, 6-4, 2-6, 6-7. Despite the first round loss, Slone and Schmidt closed off the year with the most wins (13) and doubles wins (13) on the team. Jessica Beamer's strong second half push came to an end against St. Pete's Gracie Cornell in the singles bracket, 2-6, 2-6. Courtney Taylor also fell in her opening round match, 3-6, 4-6, to Edison's Lillia Hite, while Carlee Gibson was stopped short in her first round match-up with Galion's Kaylyn Campbell, 4-6, 4-6. Beamer ended the season 11-13, while Taylor and Gibson posted overall marks of 3-19 and 2-12. "We were really competitive in a lot of matches," said Willard Head Coach Josh Bauerle. "Obviously, First Doubles won a match and went to three sets in their second match. They almost had a chance to play for a spot at Districts. For having a girl, like Jo, still getting her first varsity experience, that is pretty good there. "All three singles lost in the first round, but at least all three were competitive matches, and Second Doubles lost in a third set tie-breaker," he added. "The hard thing about it is, at any other event, you're getting matched up normally. But here everyone's mixed together. It was definitely a different experience for the girls, but it can only help us for next year." Despite the 1-5 mark on the Sectional day, the Lady Flashes continued to display just how far they have developed and just what they have to look forward to building on for next season. "The won-loss record doesn't tell the whole story," said Bauerle. "We got so much better over the second half of the season. When you compare what the losses look like from when we played teams the first time to our second time facing them. I'm very proud of our girls." Including Sectionals, a total of 11 different Lady Flashes saw action in at least one varsity match this season, which bodes well for next season. "We returned something like 25 total varsity matches at the start of this season," said Bauerle. "Next year it will be like 160 or something, so that will be a drastic difference in how we will enter the season." Shelby 4, Willard 1 After being postponed on Tuesday, the Lady Flashes completed their match with visiting Shelby on Wednesday, falling by three against the Lady Whippets. Slone and Schmidt produced Willard's victory in the match at Second Doubles, as they defeated Annie McKinney and Allie Gies, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (10-8). Shelby swept the singles matches, as Katie Bowman defeated Beamer, 6-0, 6-0, at First Singles, while Claire Yetzer topped Taylor, 6-0, 6-1, at Second Singles. Carlee Gibson picked up some steam in the second set, but ultimately fell 6-2, 6-4 against Shelby's Hannah Slone at Third Singles. Sarah Harding Taylor Duncan salvaged a doubles split for the Lady Whippets by defeating Brubaker and Buss at First Doubles, 6-2, 6-3.