The third time was the charm for Dutch Fork at the Cayce Fitness Tennis Center.
With a win at No. 2 doubles, Anna Maria Gardiner and Caroline Sinegar clinched a 4-3 victory against Wando and propelled the Silver Foxes to the 4A state championship after being runners-up the previous two years.
“We were prepared for this match,” Gardiner said. “We’ve been waiting for it since the beginning of the season.”
Lauren Joch at No. 1 singles and Sam Calais at No. 2 won their matches for the Silver Foxes (27-1), but Wando (20-3) took Nos. 3-5 singles for a 3-2 lead going into doubles. Joch and Calais teamed up at No. 1 doubles to defeat Lauren Quinn and Lily Conant 6-0, 6-0 to set up the deciding match at No. 2 doubles.
“I’m really honored, and really excited this year, because we have a bunch of seniors,” Joch said. “I knew that when we got to No. 1 doubles, me and Sam were going to take it.”
Gardiner and Sinegar, both seniors, dropped the first set to Morgan Hildebrant and Brooke Gaskins 6-4. But the Dutch Fork pair won the second set 6-3 and claimed a 10-6 win in the tiebreaker to secure the championship.
“We were expecting a lot of pressure in this match,” Gardiner said. “There was a point where Caroline and I just looked at each other and realized that this was the match we’ve been practicing for all year and it just clicked. When we realized that this would be the last time we would play together, that’s when we started playing our best.”
Midway through the match, Dutch Fork coach Gina Hilts let Gardiner and Sinegar know their match would decide whether they would be champions or runners-up once again.
“I think they work better under stress and knowing that this was it,” Hilts said. “They had to do it, and they did. I’m very proud of both of them.”
Hilts said she had a good feeling about the Silver Foxes’ chances this season.
“If we were going to win, it would be this year,” Hilts said. “I felt like we had the depth and had a lot of returners. These girls have worked hard for several years to get here.”