The Woodland doubles pairing of Emma Savage and Eryn Gentry looked to be heading towards a straight-set defeat against the Line 1 team from rival Cass on Tuesday afternoon at Hamilton Crossing.
Facing a 5-3 deficit in the second set, Savage and Gentry rallied back to force a tiebreaker, won the tiebreaker and cruised in the third set to land a 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 win. The victory helped the Wildcats pull off a thrilling 3-2 team win before the Woodland boys matched them minutes later.
Being the deciding match is nothing new for Savage, a sophomore, and Gentry, a freshman, as the duo had to overcome a second-set tiebreak loss last time out to pick up a victory over Hiram.
"They just play steady," Woodland coach Beth Heath said of the Savage-Gentry combo. "They take it slow. They take it one point at a time. They're both so laidback and easy going. ... They're both encouraging each other all the time, which I love that about them.
"We've had several matches, where it's dependent upon those two to pull it out for them. That's exactly what happened against Hiram."
On the opposite side of every great comeback, though, is the other team wondering what might have been. Cass girls coach Sydney Hughes admitted she was disappointed in the result, but she knows her young pairing of McKenley King and Carli Rediger will only improve from Tuesday's experience.
She chalked up the loss to her Line 1 team playing not to lose down the stretch instead of being aggressive.
"We did well; we grew up a lot," Hughes said of her overall team performance. "My [Line] 1 doubles is really young, and it showed. When they got a lead, they got nervous. But I think overall we did some good things. My [Line] 2 singles lost, but that might have been the best match she's played. ...
"I was really proud of all of them. It was disappointing in that [Line 1 doubles match], because we had our chance, but I was proud of them."
Cass (1-3) put itself in prime position to hand Woodland its first region defeat with a pair of singles wins. Sophomore Emily Surcey, who is among the top players in the state, defeated Breanna Shook 6-0, 6-0. Line 3's Emma Wickenheiser — the lone senior for the Colonels — gutted out a 6-4, 6-3 win over Kayla Gales.
Woodland's usual No. 1 Becky Wesley picked up a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Payton Tatusko on Line 2. The Wildcats also landed a Line 2 doubles win, as Monterya Morrow and Abigail Spaulding overcame Adrianna Segura and Kristina Bennett by a 6-2, 6-2 score.
Just like the girls, the boys side finished 3-2 in favor of Woodland with the overall win being decided by the final matchup. In this case that came in the form of Line 3 singles with Keegan Gallagher knocking off Andrew Zimmer by a 7-5, 6-3 score.
Heath was impressed with Gallagher's performance not only because he held his nerve in a deciding match but also because he's a doubles player. Or at least he used to be, he might have just earned himself a chance to secure the Line 3 singles spot behind stalwarts Bryce VanOrder and Connor Gunnell.
VanOrder initially wasn't going to play Tuesday, as Cass planned to forfeit Line 1. He wound up facing Chris Pittard, a JV player, and earning a comfortable win. Gunnell also had an easy time on Line 2, posting a 6-0, 6-0 result.
Cass put itself in position to possibly win the matchup with stellar play by its doubles teams. Kendall Arnold and Peyton Patterson produced a 6-4, 6-3 victory on Line 1, while Dawson Hedden and Bryan Wickenheiser picked up a three-set (6-2, 1-6, 6-3) victory on Line 2.
"I was very proud of Kendall Arnold and Peyton Patterson," Cass boys coach Jason Arnold said. "It's the first time they've played together. I've been trying to get them together to see how they play together, and they really were impressive. They said they enjoyed playing together, so we'll probably see more of that.
"Line 2, Dawson [Hedden] and Bryan [Wickenheiser], that was their second time playing together, and they did better today. Both of them hit the ball better today and with a lot more confidence."
Tuesday's results improved both Woodland teams to 5-0 in Region 7-AAAAA action and dropped each Cass squad to 1-3. Both teams will be back in action today with Woodland hosting Allatoona and Cass facing Paulding County.
Heath and Jason Arnold both lamented having reached this point of the season without having found a consistent lineup. Perhaps, Tuesday provided some insight for both in that regard.
"We're still trying to figure out who plays well today," Arnold said, "and I think, maybe, today we finally figured it out. Still don't know who's Line 1 and who's Line 2, they're still battling that out. As far as doubles goes, I think we finally settled on something today. We'll see how we do next week with that lineup."