By Jake Thompson
AVON — With her teammates tensely and nervously awaiting the outcome of every point, Plainfield’s Arden Allen came through for her squad. With the Quakers’ match in Thursday’s tennis sectional semifinal against conference rival Mooresville tied at 2-2, Allen overcame leg cramps and enormous pressure to down her opponent 7-5, 6-4 and advance Plainfield into today’s sectional final.
“I was like ‘This is my night, I’m going to win this no matter what,” Arden said. “I didn’t want to lose my last match if this was our last match.”
Plainfield coach Keith Bradley had been patiently waiting all year for this moment to come.
“Arden has had such a tough season and she has battled and battled,” Bradley said. “To come up with a win like this after playing so many three set matches and coming up just short, I can’t say enough about that kid. She fought through cramps, she fought through could she really get this done and made a believer out of herself and what we’ve been trying to tell her all season. Great to see that come together.”
Mooresville took a 1-0 match lead as Meghann Fitzpatrick downed Carrie Copeland 6-2, 6-2 in No. 1 singles.
Plainfield’s Kristen Lees and Jessie Rigdon gutted out a 7-5, 6-3 win at No. 1 doubles after that.
The Quakers then took a 2-1 edge after Audrey Koeberlein bested Mooresville’s Molly Fitzpatrick 7-5, 6-4 at No. 2 singles.
Mooresville, who had beaten the Quakers 3-2 earlier in the season, tied the match 2-2 as its No. 2 doubles team defeated Plainfield’s Bailey Jackman and Betsy Gillenwater 6-2, 7-5.
Up one set, Allen fell behind 3-2 in the second and then took a 4-3 advantage before going up 5-3.
That’s when the leg cramps set in.
Allen rallied back after giving up a game and finished off the Pioneers’ hopes of defending their sectional title.
“Tonight, the girls came out and probably put their best foot forward,” Bradley said. “I wasn’t sure where this match was going to go and the girls had two good days of practice leading up to this and they played their best match of the season. We hope to continue that trend.”
Avon’s semifinal over victory over Danville carried far less drama as the Orioles swept the Warriors in dominating fashion, 5-0. Avon dropped just one game the entire match.
“Avon’s pretty good and I was impressed by how well they hit deep and move and their service is a little too much for us,” Danville coach Mike Burdsall said.
At No. 1 singles, Avon’s Grace Langford downed Danville’s Anna Eschbach 6-0, 6-0. In No. 2 singles action, the Orioles’ Sabrina Becker defeated the Warriors’ Sarah Binkley 6-0, 6-0.
Tara Boling provided the lone game of the night for Danville as she fell in No. 3 singles play to Avon’s Kari Thrasher 6-0, 6-1.
In No. 1 doubles play, the Orioles’ Mikala Hillis and Erin Pool bested the Warriors’ Megan Hamilton and Madeline Motes 6-0, 6-0. The same result followed at No. 2 doubles with Avon’s Brittany Berg and Audrie Hillis defeating Danville’s Abby Eberling and Marie Summers 6-0, 6-0.
Avon was the lone team to have to play into the semifinals. The Orioles defeated county and conference rival Brownsburg — last season’s sectional runner-up — 4-1 Wednesday night and could have had a let down.
“Obviously it wasn’t the same type of team we played (Wednesday), but they did what they had to and they were patiently aggressive,” Avon coach Stan Malless said of his team. “It would have been really easy ( to relax) after a tough match yesterday and they poured it on the whole time. Our motto was “Stay the Course,” and we’re peaking at the right time.”
Avon played both Mooresville and Plainfield in the last couple of weeks and downed the Quakers 4-1 in their match. Malless, who is retiring at the end of this season would love to go out on top with a sectional championship.
“It’d be huge (to win) especially because I’m so fond of this team and their work ethic,” Malless said of the sectional championship match. “The girls are fun and awesome people. They’d be really happy to do it for me and I think they can do it for me.”
Standing in the way is county rival Plainfield and after coming off what Bradley said was the Quakers’ best match of the season, he believes the Quakers have a good shot at the title.
“We’re looking forward to the rematch and I think we’re going to show a little better Saturday morning,” Bradley said.