On a chilly Tuesday night, the Myrtle Beach Seahawks girls tennis team beat rival Wilson 4-2 in a too-close-for-comfort match to advance to the Class AAA Lower State finals, where they will face Hilton Head on the road.
Seahawks coach Jeri Himmelsbach prepared her team appropriately, giving them a crucial piece of advice.
“Tomorrow’s not promised,” said Himmelsbach, whose team beat Wilson 6-0 in a previous meeting. “Go out there and play it like we’ve never played this team before, like we don’t know anything about them. Just play your best.”
Myrtle Beach started slow Tuesday as the Tigers looked like a different team, playing with newfound intensity.
It also didn’t hurt that the Seahawks’ top player – No. 1 Jessie Dumas – was battling the flu.
Nonetheless, Myrtle Beach advanced to the Lower State final for the first time in five years, a refreshing feat after being knocked out in the first round.
“We knew we couldn’t make any mistakes, that was very crucial, and every position counts for the playoff matches,” said Himmelsbach, who found out after the match that she had been voted Region VII Coach of the Year. “Every position counts. We’re playing good now, and this was a little bit closer match today. Jessie, my No. 1 player, has the flu so we’ll have to deal with that tomorrow, but certainly I think we were a little bit better prepared.
“We’re playing good, and every match counts from now on, every point counts.”
With Dumas’ loss, it put added pressure on No. 2 Rachel Berkey to give the Seahawks a point. And the sophomore came through, breezing to a 6-1, 6-0 victory.
“We just went out there forgetting [about] our last match with them,” Berkey said. “We approached it like [we were facing] a new opponent.”
Berkey summed up the strategy heading into Hilton Head in one word.
“Harder. We’re going to have to play a lot harder,” she said.
The Seahawks know a challenge awaits in their next match.
“Hilton Head’s tough. It’s a tennis town like Myrtle Beach,” Himmelsbach said. “We’ve never gotten to play Hilton Head since I’ve been coaching so I look forward to this opportunity, which might really be the state championship in the Lower State. We’re looking forward to it.”
Now, the young Seahawks – who feature no seniors – enter an even bigger stage Thursday.
“I’ve kind of kept it a little more low-key for them,” Himmelsbach said. “It’s just another match; we want to stay together one more match. I haven’t really played it up too much. It’s just another match.”
However, the stakes couldn’t be much higher as the Seahawks are merely one win away from reaching the state final.
“I know [Hilton Head is] well-respected, I know they have a great team and they have a great coach so we’d just like to have a shot at it,” Himmelsbach said. “We’ve got it.”