Notre Dame's Kerigan McNamara knows what it feels like to be recognized as one of the state's best in a particular sport.
The senior participated last season in the Division I state tennis tournament, getting there as one-half of a doubles team. Her partner was someone she knew closely and had natural chemistry with on and off the court.
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Kerigan's partner was her younger sister, Teagan, then a freshman, who stepped right in and showed she could handle the competition at the high school level. The McNamaras enjoyed every step of their march to the D-I doubles tournament, especially the opportunity to play alongside one another.
They lost in the first round, but Kerrigan McNamara recalled that her and her sister "played really well and we definitely want to get back."
The McNamaras are among a small group of northwest Ohio players who participated in the tournament a year ago. Most have graduated, but a few -- like the McNamaras -- would welcome a chance to make a return trip.
However, the player who figured to come into the season as an obvious choice to make it back to state and contend for a state championship was Kennedy Shaffer, who placed third in D-I singles as a St. Ursula freshman.
Shaffer opted to bypass returning for her sophomore year and enrolled in an elite tennis academy located in Hilton Head, S.C.
Obviously, Shaffer's decision wasn't something St. Ursula coach Mary Kay Minder wanted to hear. She lost her top player, who may have ended the season as the top player in the state.
"She made up her mind three days before school started, so it was really tough," Minder said.
Nevertheless, the Arrows figured as one of the area's best teams, along with Three Rivers Athletic Conference rival Notre Dame. The Eagles and Arrows went into a conference matchup on Tuesday at Jermain Park with both teams owning undefeated records in TRAC matchups.
Notre Dame left no doubt about which team appears to be the leader for the TRAC title as the Eagles swept the Arrows 5-0 with the McNamaras doing their part to help pull off the decisive win.
Teagan McNamara, a sophomore, took the No. 2 singles match by stopping St. Ursula's Celina Nowicki 6-0, 6-0. Kerigan McNamara teamed with Lindsay Clark to win the No. 1 doubles match 6-2, 7-5. Alicia Nahhas stopped Nina Farrar 6-2, 6-0 in the No. 1 singles match.
Nina Eid scored a 6-2, 7-5 victory for No. 3 singles, and Madelyn Denning and Jordan Cady claimed a 7-5, 6-2 win for No. 2 doubles.
"We're all confident and we keep our heads up," Teagan McNamara said. "We have our goals and hopefully we'll fulfill our goals."
Nahhas, a freshman, improved her No. 1 singles record to 11-3 while Teagan McNamara raised her No. 2 doubles record to 13-1.
Eid remains unbeaten at No. 3 with a 14-0 record. Kerigan McNamara and Clark have excelled and are 16-0 in doubles matches while Cady and Denning stand 15-2 for the season.
Although the McNamaras made it to state as doubles partners last season, they're not certain which direction they'll take this season since Teagan has played well throughout the season in singles and Kerigan and Clark remain undefeated in doubles.
"We're deeper than we were last year," Notre Dame coach Kim Pacella said. "Our doubles teams are much stronger than last year. They're all good."
Frankly, the Eagles have been as formidable a team as any in northwest Ohio the past four seasons under Pacella, who is in her seventh season. The past four seasons have ended with the Eagles involved in the final four of the state team tournament held annually by the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association.
The state team competition, which takes place during the latter part of the season, is not an Ohio High School Athletic Association sanctioned event like the singles and doubles tournament.
That minor fact hasn't diminished the Eagles' annual goal to make to state as a team, according to Pacella.
"I think the girls put more on making it to the state team tournament than winning the league championship," Pacella said. "It's not just us. I think it's all schools that have a chance to play on the last day of the season."
Kerigan McNamara has been a member of three state final four teams. The first two years involved playing on the team with older sister, Megan, who graduated in 2010. She hopes to finish out her career playing the final two seasons with her and Teagan making it to the state final four with the rest of their Eagles teammates.
"Hopefully we can continue that tradition," Kerigan McNamara said. "It's exciting because we really would have a whole new team going. I've had that experience and I want them to also have it."
Contact Donald Emmons at: email@example.com, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.