Jackson girls tennis nabs elusive win over Notre Dame in nail-biting fashion
After an afternoon of nip-and-tuck, back-and-forth battles, all eyes fell on one court at the Brother David Migliorino Tennix Complex at Notre Dame Regional High School.
With the Notre Dame and Jackson girls tennis teams tied at four matches apiece, the Bulldogs' Claire Bruenderman and Chloe Pipkin suddenly found themselves, in the No. 5 singles match, the last two players standing, and carrying the weight of the entire afternoon on their shoulders.
With the power to swing the day, Pipkin rallied to win the final three games and top Bruenderman, 9-7, earning the decisive result that vaulted Jackson to a 5-4 victory Wednesday and its first win over the Bulldogs since 2012.
It was all about steely nerves for the Indians, who dropped two of the three doubles matches to begin the competition.
"Any time you play Notre Dame, it doesn't matter what sport you're playing, it's a rivalry," Jackson coach Linda Adams said. "Some of the girls know the girls here; they're friends with the girls. Some of my girls take lessons from Donna (Ryan, Notre Dame coach), so, either way, it's a friendly competition.
"But we had to persevere. We played doubles and only won one of those, so we had to win four singles to win it. Our girls hung in tough and got back in it. They were behind, it was back and forth, and we persevered and came through."
After letting a one-game advantage get away, Pipkin was forced to rally from a 7-6 hole against Bruenderman, leaping on top 8-7. That's when, with the other matches concluded, the crowd gathered.
The Indians' final hope went up 30-love before a baseline drive by Bruenderman cut the deficit and a double-fault on Pipkin's serve pushed it to 30-all.
The two then traded blows, going to deuce three times, before Pipkins faulted on her serve with a chance to seal things. She made sure the second one counted, driving an ace over the net to give Jackson (5-2) the win.
"Chloe, we didn't let her know [she was the swing match], but she knew something was up because we were all right there," Adams said. "She's always telling us she needs someone there to pick her up, but she came through. She really told herself, 'I can do this,' and that's what you've got to do. I told her, 'You've got the strokes. Mentally you've got to tell yourself you love your game and you can finish.'"
Notre Dame (4-3) took a 4-2 lead in the team scoring and needed just one more victory with three matches still ongoing. The Bulldogs couldn't capture any of them.
"It's what you want -- you want them to all be competitive, but you want to come out on top," Ryan said. "So it's a disappointment that we didn't, but you can't control what your opponent is doing. You can only control what you're doing. They did the best they could and, under the circumstances, I thought they did OK."
The only singles match that wasn't nip-and-tuck was the No. 1 battle, with Notre Dame's Grace Powderly, who qualified for the state tournament a year ago, breezing past Larrissa Hoffman 8-0.
The other five singles duels, though, were decided by see-saw action.
The No. 2 battle, between Notre Dame's Hattie Burdin and Jackson's Lexie Clements, saw alternating leads, but Clements remained patient and closed with three straight games to claim an 8-6 victory.
The other matchups followed similar narratives.
At No. 3, Lauren Powderly took an early lead, but Corie Pike was able to pull out to a 6-3 advantage and seal an 8-5 result.
Sarah Fetterhoff boosted the Indians' cause in the No. 4 match, though not without a stern challenge from the Bulldogs' Maren Slaten. Fetterhoff jumped out to a 4-1 lead, but Slaten responded with four straight games to leapfrog to a 5-4 lead.
Fetterhoff found her own response, earning back-to-back games to flip the advantage and then held on for an 8-6 victory.
Winnie Pickett nabbed Notre Dame's second singles' win, with an 8-3 win over Katelyn Fehr.
Grace Powderly and Burdin breezed to an 8-1 result in the top doubles showdown against Hoffman and Pike, and Lauren Powderly and Slaten polished off Clements and Fehr 8-2.
Jackson took the No. 3 doubles, 8-4, as Pipkin and Fetterhoff joined forces to defeat Bruenderman and Ally Ochs.
That one doubles victory turned out to be huge, as it set the table for the Indians to mount a comeback in singles, all the way down to Pipkin's final ace.
"[The teams] played similar, but our girls, they hung tough," Adams said. "I said, 'You've got to know you can finish the point. You've got to have the mental toughness to carry you through. You can have all the strokes, but mentally if you don't have it you won't pull through.'
"They are hungry. They are passionate about it. They always want to practice ... and they want to be there. They really, really like to be on the court, no matter what."
Notre Dame will try to bounce back immediately, traveling to Poplar Bluff today.
Jackson hosts Charleston today.
No. 1 -- Grace Powderly (ND) def. Larissa Hoffman (J) 8-0
No. 2 -- Lexie Clements (J) def. Hattie Burdin (ND) 8-6
No. 3 -- Corie Pike (J) def. Lauren Powderly (ND) 8-5
No. 4 -- Sarah Fetterhoff (J) def. Maren Slaten (ND) 8-6
No. 5 -- Chloe Pipkin (J) def. Claire Bruenderman (ND) 9-7
No. 6 -- Winnie Pickett (ND) def. Katelyn Fehr (J) 8-3
No. 1 -- G. Powderly/Burdin (ND) def. Hoffman/Pike (J) 8-1
No. 2 -- L. Powderly/Slaten (ND) def. Clements/Fehr (J) 8-2
No. 3 -- Pipkin/Fetterhoff (J) def. Bruenderman/Ally Ochs (ND) 8-4