Only one other Gilmour Academy girls’ tennis player has accomplished as much as senior Carly Cohen.
Cohen, 17, reached the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division II state championship match, where she fell to Sydni Ratliff of Columbus Academy in a hard-fought, 6-4, 7-5 match Oct. 19 at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, a suburb of Cincinnati.
Only Lauren Davis has done better – she captured the state championship as a freshman in 2008 – and then attended Evert Tennis Academy in Florida before turning professional in 2011.
For her season-long performance, Cohen is the Cleveland Jewish News-Buffalo Wild Wings Player of the Week.
“It was really important to me because I didn’t play high school tennis last year,” she said. “And I just really wanted to my senior year because I had a good (year) my freshman year, getting to the finals in doubles. It felt good coming back senior year and doing the same. Obviously, I was hoping to win the state title, but I think I played well all weekend and leading up to the tournament.”
At the state tournament, Cohen defeated Aliza Lankenau of Napoleon, 6-0, 6-0, Sylvia Gray of Chillicothe Uniontown, 6-2, 6-0, and Nicole Gillinov of Hathaway Brown School in Shaker Heights, 6-4, 6-2, in a semifinal. Gillinov is two-time defending state champ and defeated Cohen as a sophomore.
“The semifinals definitely took a good amount out of me,” Cohen said. “It was a long match, over two hours. But I played really well in that match. Again, the finals was another grueling match, Obviously, the score shows it. It was really close, a few points here and there and maybe things would have kind of gone in my direction, but it was a good match overall.”
In the district, she had a tough draw and had to play Gillinov in the second round.
“It was a really big match for me,” Cohen said. “I prepared for that for a while. And then the next three rounds, I also played really well. I kind of built up my confidence after each match and just went out and tried my hardest.”
Cohen, a Pepper Pike resident, was undefeated during the regular season en route to a 26-2 overall record. She also was named the North Coast League most valuable player.
“I knew I had to prove myself because I didn’t play the year before,” she said. “I knew people would be watching to see how I played because I haven’t been to states as a singles player.”
As a freshman, Cohen and Claudia Althans advanced in doubles to the 2016 state tournament.
Cohen opted not to play varsity tennis last season, and instead played U.S. Tennis Association, which is helpful for the college recruiting process.
Next year, she will play tennis at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Va., an NCAA Division I school, where she plans to major in business. Richmond is a tennis powerhouse and captured its sixth Atlantic 10 championship in the last seven years this spring.
Cohen attended Hathaway Brown until her freshman season. She said she switched because Gilmour’s block scheduling meant she would miss fewer classes as she concentrated on tennis.
Cohen credited her sister, Colby, who is two years older and graduated from Hathaway Brown, for getting her interested in tennis.
Cohen also expressed deep appreciation to Michael Rubin, who is in charge of tennis at Beechmont Country Club in Orange, and her coach, Cynthia Smith.
“The thing about Carly is she’s tenacious,” said Smith, who has been coaching the girls’ team for 17 years and has also coached the boys’ teams. “She certainly worked so hard in the offseason. She brings a lot of positive energy to the court. She doesn’t get down on herself when she’s behind. She knows how to rise up, rather than beat herself up, which I like.
“She’s just a great kid to coach. She totally will execute anything you try to get her to do. She’s got all the tools to do that, which is nice. ... She sort of reminds me of like a Chris Evert – she doesn’t show a lot of her emotions or get rattled. She just plays the game. She doesn’t try to get in people’s heads and gamesmanship, like some of these kids do. She doesn’t do any of that. She has been a really great role model for the younger players.”