Trailing 2-1, Columbus East had its backs against the wall in its opening-round Hoosier Hills Conference Tournament girls tennis matchup against Floyd Central.
The Olympians, however, didn’t panic.
Adycin Rager pulled out a three-set win at No. 2 singles, and then Kendall Gerken and Kathryn Hodzen followed with a three-set victory at No. 1 doubles to give the Olympians a 3-2 victory and a berth in Wednesday’s semifinals.
“I think we’re used to high-pressure situations,” Gerken said. “We’ve gone to three sets multiple times this year, so we’ve gotten pretty used to it and pretty comfortable, so we just tried to stay as calm as we could.”
Gerken and Hodzen won the first set but then had a hiccup in the second set against Haley Palmer and Leah Bowman. Gerken and Hodzen led 5-3 and had a match point in the third set before Palmer and Bowman recovered to tie the match at 5-5.
Gerken and Hodzen then claimed back-to-back games to take a 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 victory.
“A lot of the stuff we’ve been working on in practice really came to fruition,” East coach Matt Malinsky said. “At the end of the match, they were really tough mentally, and they just did a lot of awesome stuff out there. I can’t even begin to say all of what it was. It was just a great performance.”
The Olympians (11-3) scored the first point when Megna Chari beat Madison Woosley 6-2, 6-2 at No. 1 singles. But then Carolyn Travis and Maddy Rhodes fell to to Morgan Hamilton and Lindsey Dorsch 6-3, 6-2, and Alaysha Pollert lost to Jasmine Shireman 6-4, 6-3 at No. 3 singles, leaving the Highlanders with a 2-1 lead.
Rager then rallied for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 win against Kate Sparrow at No. 2 singles, setting up the drama at No. 1 doubles.
“I knew I had to win that match,” Rager said. “But after I lost the first (set), I was a little nervous, but in the second (set), I started to hit harder, and it just kind of worked for me.”
East hasn’t won an HHC championship since 1982. The Olympians have lost in the finals the past five years, four of them coming to Floyd Central.
Now, East will host Seymour in the semifinals on Wednesday. A win would put them in Friday’s title match, also at East.
“We have a long way to go,” Malinsky said. “It’s just the first round. We still have to win two more matches to accomplish that, but it does feel great to get the monkey off our back, so to speak.”