Kayla Nutt and Lauren Hird have spent summers playing tennis together but never at the high school level.
When Hird transferred to Pleasant Valley from Alleman this year, that suddenly became a possibility, and now the duo is headed to the state tournament.
Nutt and Hird won a Class 2A regional title Wednesday at Pleasant Valley High School, beating top-seeded Joyce Sun and Ava Hash from Dubuque Hempstead 6-4, 6-3 in the championship match.
"We've been playing together since we were little in USTA tournaments so this year, being able to play on the same team and play doubles like we do over the summer, it's been a great experience," Hird said. "We already know we can gel together so making it to state together really proves all the work we've been doing these past few years is paying off."
It was a clean sweep for the Spartans as sophomore Ramya Subramaniam won a regional title in singles, beating top-seeded Emma Lassen of Cedar Rapids Jefferson 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 in the title match.
"To go out there and play some strong matches through the middle of the day and keep that consistency is great to see," PV head coach Eric Crawford said of Subramaniam. "Doubles was super loaded with all the top players from each team here so it worked out, you just never know."
Nutt returns to state after finishing seventh last year in doubles while paired with Roshni Penmatcha. Hird also has state experience, a member of the Alleman tennis team that finished tied for third at the Illinois Class 1A state meet in 2016.
Taking down the top seed gives both confidence heading to state. Nutt mentioned her net game as something that needed work from last year, but that was a strength of the team Wednesday.
"Staying strong at the net (Wednesday) and being aggressive instead of letting them control the point, we tried to take control of the point," Nutt said. "It helps a lot with our confidence there because we know we can take over the net."
Subramaniam played at No. 7 singles last year and is at No. 4 singles this year. That hasn't stopped the sophomore from improving her game to reach the state tournament for the first time.
"I really think after last year, I really pushed myself and over the summer I went and played all these tournaments and it feels really good all my hard work has paid off," Subramaniam said. "I've improved my serve so much and my backhand has improved, and I feel I can attack more on it so it feels so good that I can really see the results of my hard work."
It was a marathon day for Subramaniam, who got to school at 7:15 a.m. and whose match against Lassen didn't finish until 6:45 p.m., the final match of the tournament. She didn't let fatigue become a factor, only dropping one set, in the final against Lassen.
"I feel really confident now. I want to go to the state tournament and play my game," Subramaniam said. "I really found that sometimes if I need to adjust my game, I can. It's nice adjusting to the opponent because that's what matters. If you play your game and don't adjust, you don't know what's going to happen."
PV junior Sakshi Lawande finished third in singles, beating Davenport West junior Cassidy Schaeffer 6-1, 6-1, while the Spartan doubles team of Aabha Joshi and Julia Hillman also finished third, beating Cedar Rapids Jefferson's team of Caroline Winter and Raquel Wilhelm 6-4, 6-4.