Drew Fillis is lighter on her feet these days.
The Ottawa Hills junior roams the tennis court with more grace and speed than she did even a year ago when she proved herself as one of the state's best players for the second straight year.
A concerted effort to improve her overall conditioning since competing in the Division II state tennis tournament last fall has paid dividends.
“Her fitness level has improved a lot,” Ottawa Hills coach Jeff Harst said. “She's in better shape and she's quicker.”
Shivani Bhatt is quicker around the court too.
The sophomore, who also participated in the Division II state tournament last fall, is faster on her feet while playing tennis largely because more practice time has paid off.
Bhatt's game has improved with increased experience playing her favorite sport.
“Mentally she's a lot better because she's older,” Harst said. “She's gotten a lot more consistent.”
Fillis plays No. 1 singles and Bhatt holds down No. 2 for the Green Bears. Both are capable of holding their own with any of the area's top players. Their only defeats have come against Central Catholic's Morgan Delp.
Fillis, who entered the week with an 8-1 record in singles matches this season, is the only area player who reached the Division II state tournament in singles the last two seasons.
“I think it's great when I can make it that far,” said Fillis. “I'm hoping to go there and do better this year.”
The Green Bears' top singles player for the last three seasons considered her past trips to state not completely fulfilling. She's never made it past her opening-round match.
Hilliard Bradley's Lauren Thai stopped Fillis 6-3, 6-1 in an opening-round at last year's state tournament. A major goal for this season is to play beyond the first round.
“I think about it,” she said. “I've learned from it, what I did and what I could've done better.”
It has served as a catalyst to work on improving her game, more significantly, getting into better shape. Fillis has become leaner and has improved her fitness level with increased attention to her training and diet.
“I've been running more and working out more,” Fillis said. “During the summer, I played tennis three to four hours a day.”
Harst believes Fillis' extra efforts to get into better physical shape have produced positive results on the court this fall. He also believes his top player is playing some of her best tennis.
“Drew's never been the kind of girl in the past that would run a ball down and stay in longer rallies,” Harst said. “Now she's capable of staying out there on the court for three hours if she has to.
“She was a slugger before — not that she couldn't run before — but she gets to a lot more balls now.”
Bhatt reached the state tournament last fall in doubles with her sister, Arohi. They lost their opening round match to Gates Mills Hawkens' Taylor Johnson and Surya Khadilkar 7-5, 6-1.
Yet, the experience is something Shivani cherishes since her sister graduated and it will represent the only time they had a chance to make it to the state tournament as teammates.
Without Arohi, who is a freshman at Miami University, Shivani is motivated to try and return to state without her older sister at her side.
“I'm trying to get to at least the same position if not better [at state],” Shivani said. “It was so much fun that I'm really hoping I can make it there again.”
Harst believes Bhatt, who owned an 8-1 record in singles matches entering this week, is on the right track to get back to Columbus.
Bhatt has spent most of the season playing No. 2 singles, but it hasn't been determined if she'll attempt to reach state in singles or if she'll be paired with one of her teammates in doubles.
“Having her at No. 2 is a real strength to the team because most teams we match up with we know we'll probably get a win at No. 2 because of her ability,” Harst said.
Bhatt, who spent hours this summer practicing and playing in tournaments, is a different player as a result of extra time and effort put into improving her game.
All the effort is starting to pay off.
“I'm not nervous anymore because I've had the experience now,” Bhatt said.
Contact Donald Emmons at:email@example.com 419-724-6302.