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Columbus’ top singles players prepare for match

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Ashlee Hasson and Aubrey Smith have only played each other once in a competitive tennis match, and that came several years ago in a Tipton Lakes tournament.

Neither player remembers how old they were, but they both recall Hasson, who is three years older, coming out on the winning end.

This afternoon, the pair will meet on the tennis court for the first time as high school players. Hasson, a senior, is the No. 1 singles player for Columbus East, and Smith, a freshman, is the No. 1 singles player for Columbus North.

“She’s always been good,” Hasson said. “That entire family has been driven and has participated in tennis for years. She’s a great player.”

The match won’t be Hasson’s first against a member of Smith’s family. Her first two years at East, Allie Smith was the No. 1 singles player for the Bull Dogs.

“She hasn’t given me any tips, but I should ask her about that,” Aubrey Smith said.

Hasson and Allie Smith, who is now a sophomore on the University of Indianapolis team, hit with each other over the summer.

“She helped me get ready for tournaments,” Hasson said.

Hasson and Aubrey Smith have participated in clinics together at Tipton Lakes Athletic Club. This winter, they made up half of the four-member class that went through a tennis-specific training program created by one of the coaches (Ray Smiley, who has since moved to Jasper) on Mondays and Wednesdays at Tipton Lakes.

“It was a lot of endurance and not really focusing on the amount of weight you were lifting, but trying to do a lot of reps and trying to focus on gaining more endurance,” Hasson said. “We did running and upper-body and some lower-body strength and core. It was kind of a combination of all the things you need as an athlete, but in a way, would benefit you playing tennis.”

East coach Cheryl McGee has noticed how much stronger Hasson has become.

“She is so strong, she has so much power in her shots,” McGee said. “Her strokes look solid. Everything about her looks solid, but I think the thing she has going for her that a lot of her opponents don’t have is how strong and how good a shape she’s in.”

“I put a lot of time into trying to go to the gym and hit as much as I could,” Hasson said. “I didn’t play as many tournaments as I would have liked to. I was more busy in my senior year, but I tried to make sure I got in as much time as I could on the court and off the court, trying to work out and stay in good shape.”

Hasson is 1-1 so far this season. She fell 6-3, 7-6 (0) to Bloomington North’s Sarah Coghlan on Wednesday and beat Brown County’s Mary Kate McCann 6-0, 6-1 on Friday.

“She was awfully close to going into a third set (Wednesday) night, and had she, she would have been great,” McGee said. “She has that strength.”

Smith opened her career with a 6-1, 6-1 win against Seymour’s Marley Vehslage on Thursday. On Saturday, Smith went 1-2 in three matches against ranked teams at the Floyd Central Invitational.

“I played middle school seventh-grade year, but not eighth-grade, and it’s a lot different,” Smith said. “It felt good to get on the courts finally after watching my brother and sister. It felt good to finally be able to play.”

“She’s not a beginner, obviously,” North coach Kendal Hammel said. “She’s played tons of tennis.”

It’s possible today’s match at East could be decided by the battle at No. 1 singles.

“I know I have to be ready, and I have to stay focused and try to be on my feet and go in trying to do the best I can because she’s a competitive and good player,” Hasson said. “You never know what you’re going to get when you go out on the court. It will be a good match, and I’m looking forward to it.”

“I think I have a pretty good chance,” Smith said. “It should be a good match. We’re pretty good friends, so it should be fun.”

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