Down 5-3 in the second set, Seymour senior Karen Dringenburg and junior Emma Wood did what they’ve been doing all season — finding ways to win.
The No. 1 doubles tandem broke serve, Wood held and the Owls broke again before going into a tiebreaker at 6-6 in the Bedford regional championship game Saturday.
The Owls held on to their momentum and went up 6-1 in the tiebreak before shutting the door at 7-3.
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With their 6-1, 7-6 (3) victory against Castle’s Katie Brookman and Bailey Devillez, the Owls advanced to the 2015 state championships at Park Tudor in Indianapolis.
Dringenburg and Wood are the first Owls No. 1 doubles team in the school’s history to advance to state.
The last individual from Seymour to go to state was Kelly Whittler, who advanced in singles in 1995 and ’96.
“I’m amazed, we wanted it so bad,” Wood said with a smile. “It doesn’t feel real right now. Its always been our main goal.”
In the first set, the Owls came out with emphatic energy as they built a 5-0 lead. However it didn’t come easy, the Owls had to win the fifth game off four-straight deuces with Dringenburg serving.
Brookman, who had a strong, flat serve, was able to hold to get a lone game for the Knights in the first set.
Dringenburg hit back-to-back winners at the net to close the set.
“We wanted to be aggressive at the net and keep our first serve percentage high,” Dringenburg said. “Every time we were hitting our first serves we were winning games and playing a high percentage.”
Early on, the Owls hit a majority of their first serves in play, and it translated to more points.
“They had a lot of high first serve percentage games, which is key in doubles,” Owls coach Nathan Otte. “It was all about their footwork and preparation, the rest of their game followed.”
At the start of the second set, the heat set in on the courts and play slowed.
“They came out very excited to play, the energy and intensity carried them through that first set,” Owls co-coach Jennifer Miller said. “It was a long, hot day and both girls had to mentally stick with it.”
In the second set, the Owls found energy late.
“I think they had the momentum and they believed they could get it in the tiebreaker,” Miller said. “ In the matches Castle has played, the only teams we defeated they couldn’t was Floyd Central and Columbus North. Castle was able to take a tight second set and get it to a tiebreaker. I think that it was good for our girls heading into state.”
During the match, Dringenburg controlled the net finishing with 11 winners off volleys and overheads.
“We have a lot of leadership with Karen, as a senior, and she’s worked very, very hard to get to where she is at this point,” Miller said. “Having coaching her from fifth grade to tournament after tournament, she stepped up her game today.”
Earlier in the morning, the Owls defeated Providence’s Maryann Fitzpatrick and Heidi Popson 6-0, 6-2.
With their pair of wins, Dringenburg moved to 23-2 on the season and Wood stands at 15-0. While playing together at No. 1 doubles, the girls are 12-0.
On her career, Dringenburg is 83-13 and 80-13 and No. 1 doubles. Wood is 57-4 and 38-1 while playing with Dringenburg.
Wood missed most of the regular season with an injury. She returned to the Owls’ lineup on May 2 at the Providence Invitational.
A number of younger members that played on the tennis team showed up for the regional matches, and co-coach Otte believes the No. 1 doubles team is setting a fine example for the up-and-comers.
“It’s exciting, the other girls watching and coming back up are seeing that tennis is a sport where you can be successful in Seymour,” Otte said. “Four years ago, when we saw the girls coming up we were excited to see where they would go. To see it come to fruition is exciting.”
As a team, the Owls finished with their first-ever Hoosier Hills Conference title and their fourth-straight sectional crown.
“It’s incredible,” Miller said. “You look back at where these girls were three and four years ago. Emma played singles for us her freshman year. This has been a huge goal for us, and they believed in themselves.”
The individual state finals will be conducted Friday and Saturday.