For some of the area's best high school girls tennis players, the road to the state championship is getting shorter.
The first day of Section VI Championships at the Southtowns Tennis Center went by with relatively few surprises Friday.
In singles, Orchard Park sophomore Amy Thomas, top-seeded and fresh off her win in the ECIC Tournament last weekend, had little problem with North Tonawanda's Kristen McKay in the first round, winning, 6-1, 6-0, and sweeping Lindsay Pullen of Southwestern in the second round. Each match was finished in less than an hour.
In a mild upset, second-seed Michelle Mercer, also of Orchard Park, was defeated by Niagara-Wheatfield's Ivana Miskejeova the second seed of the Niagara Frontier League, 1-6, 6-2, 6-2. Krista Thomson of Orchard Park, the fourth seed, also advanced to the semifinals by sweeping Carmen Leinenweber of Chautauqua Lake, and squeaking by Miskejeova, 7-6, 6-4.
Kallie Speller of East Aurora, the third seed, knocked off Liz Muller of Fredonia, dropping only one game in the second set. She then went on to defeat Nicole Kramer of Williamsville North 6-3, 6-0.
Kristen Janese of Niagara-Wheatfield, the top-seeded player out of the NFL, made her way to the semifinals by defeating Julie Pace of Amherst, 6-0, 6-1, and Mariana Sandri of Williamsville North, 6-3, 6-1.
In doubles, Orchard Park's Leah Wasielewski and Kelly Baritot started their push toward a state berth with victories over North Tonawanda's Katie Shorten and Melissa Burngasser, 6-1, 6-2, and Mairead McKendry and Mary Kochan of Frontier, 6-7, 7-6, 6-2.
The Niagara Frontier League was well-represented by Michelle and Lindsay Brown of Kenmore West, who cruised with victories over Trish Bianco and Susan Price of Jamestown, 6-1, 6-0, and Jamie Imus and Christine Latone of Falconer, 6-2, 6-3.
With all three of last year's singles champions having graduated, the door is wide open. Thomas and Thompson of Orchard Park, along with Kristen Janese and Speller of East Aurora will get their chances today. Thomas takes on Janese and Speller will go up against Thomson.
In doubles, Hamburg's Nicole Sargent and Andrea Sweeney are looking for a repeat. They defeated Kristen Van Schoenhaven and Andrea Hughes of Lockport, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, and Claire Grundtisch and Sara Keipp of East Aurora, 6-2, 6-1. Orchard Park returns Wasielewski and Baritot, who is only a seventh grader.
The two victories set up a chance for a rematch of last week's ECIC tournament in which Wasielewski and Baritot narrowly defeated Sargent and Sweeney, 7-5, 7-6 (7-5).
Today, Sweeney and Sargent will take on the Browns from Kenmore West, while Baritot and Wasielewski meet Kim Tasca and Nicole Becker of Kenmore East.
The top three singles finishers and the top three in doubles will represent the section in state competition. The state championships will start Sunday at the Concord Resort in the Catskills.
Today's matches will begin at noon.