Oak Mountain’s Qian wins state championship, doubles team finishes in semis

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor 

MONTGOMERY – A special tennis season came to an end on Tuesday, April 20, for Grace Qian and Lacee Sheaffer at the AHSAA State Tennis Tournament held at Lagoon Park in Montgomery.

The two Oak Mountain tennis players concluded the season with strong runs that saw Qian win the Class 7A No. 1 singles state championship and the duo finish in the semifinals of the No. 1 doubles tournament.

Qian’s path to the championship was a remarkable one, as she stormed through her state tournament singles matches to cap off an undefeated season for the Eagles.

She started the state tournament with a dominant 6-1, 6-2 straight-set victory against Florence’s Martha Mitchner to advance to the semifinals.

That set up a difficult matchup with Auburn’s Claire Bosman, who was coming off a straight-set victory of her own after taking down Hoover’s Caroline Long 6-0, 6-1.

But Qian continued to put together flawless play. She went on to pick up an even easier win in the semifinals with a 2-0 (6-1, 6-1) straight-set victory for the second match in a row.

Having dropped just five total games in the four sets she played, Qian entered the championship against Vestavia’s Cindy Jian with a ton of confidence.

Jiang was also coming off a tiring three-set match that saw her lose the opening set 5-7. She then bounced back to win 6-4 in the second set and 10-7 in the third set to take the match 2-1, but it was taxing.

Jiang still had some fight early in the championship match, battling to a 5-4 deficit.

Qian, however, capitalized on the lead and put the set away at 6-4 to take a 1-0 lead. That seemed to be the final confidence boost Qian needed, as she got back to her dominant ways in the second set to put away a 6-1 victory and complete the perfect state championship season.

She not only finished the season undefeated in singles play, but ran through the best players in the state at the state tournament without dropping a set. She won the first sets by a combined 18-6 and second sets by a combined 18-4.

Qian also teamed up with Sheaffer in a battle for the No. 1 doubles battle and the two came up short of the championship, but didn’t do so without a battle to finish off a special season.

After a perfect straight set victory against Daphne of 6-0, 6-0, the duo for the Eagles advanced to the semifinals against Fairhope.

Qian and Sheaffer dropped the first set 7-6 (7-5 in tiebreakers), but came back to win the second set 6-3 to even the match 1-1.

That led to a compelling final set that ended up tied 6-6, forcing a tiebreaker. Fairhope became the first to 10 in a 10-7 victory in the extra play.

The Oak Mountain duo’s season ended after that loss, but it was one they didn’t go out without a fight, as both Qian and Sheaffer ended the season with special memories.