Familiar Foes: North’s Wilson has seen fellow competitors in State Singles Finals

Columbus North No. 1 singles player Kathryn Wilson returns the ball to Brown County during the sectional final at Columbus North, Friday, May 19, 2023.

The Republic file photo

Kathryn Wilson has probably one of the toughest draws in this weekend’s Girls Tennis State Singles Finals.

It begins Friday when the Columbus North junior matches up with West Lafayette Harrison’s Emma Gu at 2 p.m. Friday in the quarterfinals at Park Tudor High School.

Should Wilson advance, she would take on the winner between Fishers’ Mischa Briggs and Providence’s Riley Trinkle in the semifinals at 10 a.m. on Saturday. In the other half of the bracket, South Bend St. Joseph’s Molly Bellia plays Lawrence North’s Isabelle May, and Park Tudor’s Caitlin Van Winkle faces Whiting’s Sasha Adams. The winners will meet in the other semifinal match at 10 a.m. Saturday, with the winners playing for the championship at around 2 p.m.

If the name Gu sounds familiar, it should. Her brother Aaron Gu defeated North’s Hank Lin at No. 1 singles in the boys tennis team quarterfinals to give the Raiders a 3-2 win against the Bull Dogs in October. Aaron Gu eventually went on to become the boys singles state champion a week later.

Wilson knows all of the girls in the quarterfinals since they’ve crossed paths in various tournaments in recent years. Wilson considers Gu to be one of her best friends in tennis. They played doubles together and they won in a Dominant Duo tournament last fall.

They’ll be on opposite ends Friday.

“I’ve grown up with her. We’ve played together multiple times. It’ll be fun,” Wilson said. “We’ve all grown up playing tennis together, so we’re all pretty close. We know each other’s games pretty well, so it’s going to be a dogfight to see who can pull it out in the end. It’ll be fun.”

While Wilson will need to put all of her skills to together, she said that serving and her backhand will be key.

“When I can hit them in, they’re pretty good,” Wilson said. “I’ve been struggling with (my backhand), so I need to make sure that those go in. If they go in well, then I think I’ll be OK.”

Wilson is currently undefeated at 27-0 on the season. This is likely one of the most stacked quarterfinals, record-wise among the eight players in the draw. Including Wilson, five of them are undefeated, and two of them have only one loss.

“It’s been a process of what we’re doing this whole season. I know at the beginning of the season, this was something that we were looking into it for her, and she’s got the opportunity,” North coach Kendal Hammel said. “It’s a tough draw. Not only is it a tough draw, but it’s a tough schedule. All the girls there are very good players. She’s got a tough first-round draw, no doubt about that, too. She’s just going to have to put everything together like she’s done all season with these better players and play the type of game that she can play.”

This is Wilson’s first time playing in the state singles tournament, but she’s known about the spotlight prior. Her sister Ashlie made it to the state semifinals last year before falling to eventual state champion Ellie Myers in the semifinal round in three sets.

It gives Kathryn Wilson an idea of what the atmosphere will be like beginning on Friday.

“More of it for me is going to be the mental aspect of it,” she said. “Being able to believe in myself and keep fighting, no matter what. Even if I’m not playing my best, just keep going and hopefully come out with a state championship.”