On the tail-end of a 9-hour tennis day, the Pleasant Valley doubles team of Hannah Humes and Emily Nutt did their best to take advantage of a rest period between their semifinal and final match at Thursday's Class 2A regional meet.
"We had about five minutes, so you know ..." Humes said with a laugh.
But it was no laughing matter when Humes and Nutt quickly found themselves down 5-2 to Clinton's Riley Hubbart and Kiersten Housenga in the first set of the title match. Showing their resolve, however, the duo fought back to eventually win the first set, 7-6 on a 9-7 tiebreak. Humes and Nutt then won the second set, 6-4, to claim the championship and move on to state.
Hubbart and Housenga also qualified for state by taking second.
In singles play, PV scored both state spots as Lily Feldman beat teammate Roshni Penmatcha, 6-2, 6-1 in the title match at the event held at Brady Street Stadium Tennis Courts.
Nutt explained that the duo made the choice to get the final going for two reasons - wanting to finish off the long day and getting a chance at the title. Technically, Humes and Nutt could have taken 30 minutes to rest between matches.
"I think it was a little bit of both," Nutt said of the choice. "(Hubbart and Housenga) are a really good team so we were motivated to play them."
As for the slow start, Nutt said Hubbart and Housenga caught them off-guard with aggressive, attacking play.
"They had some really great, down-the-line passing shots and their first serves were great and they were getting a lot of first serves in," she said.
Humes said the team just had to turn the tables on the Clinton duo with their own aggressive style of play.
"We were hitting it too carefully and giving the other team too many opportunities," Humes said. "We've been practicing these shots for years, so you just have to keep going, be aggressive, until you hit the right shots."
From Hubbart and Housenga's perspective, the momentum started to shift after Humes and Nutt won back-to-back games to make it 5-4.
"It was a mix of a few things but when they got two games together, they got some confidence,"
Hubbart said. "We were playing really well but we kind of got tired toward the end of the first set and they took advantage."
Once the set went to a tiebreak and Humes and Nutt eventually won, Hubbart said it was tough to get going in the second set.
"Losing that first set was hard, especially in the tiebreak," she said. "(Humes and Nutt) were really energized after winning that first set and it was a big deal. Mentally, that was good for them and it was mentally draining for us."
Hubbart said she has been to the state tournament several times as an individual player and also as part of a team but this will be Housenga's first trip to state.
"It feels great, I am very happy to have this chance and I am excited to go," Housenga said.
In the singles draw, both Feldman and Penmatcha rolled through their matches, barely dropping any sets along the way to meeting in the championship. From there, both Feldman and Penmatcha said it was a meeting that has happened perhaps, literally, hundreds of times in their lives.
"It's always fun to play (Penmatcha) because we are best friends on the court and off the court," Feldman said. "Roshni played amazing today and I am so proud of her to make it to the finals."
Feldman, a junior, is making her third-straight trip to the state finals and she is hoping to improve on last season's fourth-place finish. She was runner-up at state her freshman season. Last year, Feldman said some of the pressure of being the No. 1 seed may have contributed to her winding up fourth. This season, Feldman said she is trying to take a different approach.
"Last year, I was too aggressive and I had shorter points, which led to hitting errors," she said. "I was ending points way too quickly and I am not comfortable with that. I think I am smarter player and I trying to use more strategy when I play."
As for Penmatcha, she said she has not been to state as singles player. She said she went as part of a doubles team with Nutt her sophomore year and missed out her freshman season by taking third at regionals.
"It's going to be fun and I am excited," she said. "Playing Lily will help because she is such a great player and she is always willing to give advice. She is so consistent and she challenges everybody to play their best."