In the IHSAA state doubles tennis tournament, the best teams find ways to adapt during their single-elimination match play.
The Seymour No. 1 team of senior Karen Dringenburg and junior Emma Wood altered their strategy, implementing a brand new formation in the second set of their quarterfinals matchup with Culver Academies to make a dramatic comeback and advance to the semifinals at Park Tudor School.
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Trailing 4-1 in set two, following a 6-1 first set win, Dringenburg and Wood agreed to both stay at the baseline to return serves, playing “Australian,” during their service game.
‘Australian Doubles’ is a formation where the server and net player line up on the same side of the court during service games, rather than the standard staggered formation.
The tandem rallied to win the set 6-4 as they held serve three times, twice by Dringenburg, and broke Eagles junior Amanda Padilla and senior Regina Padilla Llaguno.
“They identified the patterns of the other team well,” Owls co-coach Nathan Otte said. “(Culver) had great cross-court returns and they took that away by changing their (serving formation). (Amanda Padilla) had a strong serve so both girls stayed back against it.
“Taking away their strengths, mentally identifying those things and executing is what kind of turned it around.”
This past week at practice, Dringenburg and Wood practiced playing ‘Australian Doubles’ for the first time this season, Otte said.
“We’ve done (Australian) once or twice before,” Wood said. “We will just do it in matches when we feel like its needed. Usually its just one point, but we did it almost a whole set.”
In the first set, the Owls came out aggressive building a 2-1 lead before winning four straight games.
At the regional in Bedford, the Owls found themselves in a similar position.
The Owls won their first set 6-1, but trailed 5-3 in the second set before forcing a tiebreaker at 6-6 where they won 7-3 against Castle in the championship match.
“I would hope that last week, where they got down in the second set, reminded them that they were just there and they could overcome this,” co-coach Jennifer Miller said. “Down 4-1 and to come back is amazing. They really, mentally stepped up today.”
Against the Eagles, at state, the Owls relied on aggressive net play. By the end of the match, the two combined for 14 winners off volleys and overheads while guarding the net.
“The rest of their game tends to follow their net play,” Miller said. “When they’re aggressive at the net, it gives them intense energy and they step it up.”
The Owls will face No. 1-ranked Carmel at 10 a.m. today. The Greyhounds’ Emma Love and Lauryn Padgett drew a first-round bye in the tournament.
Since Love and Padgett went undefeated during the postseason, en route to Carmel’s state team title last weekend, the two get the chance to also play in the individual tourney.
Love and Padgett have been called a’ semi-pro’ doubles team by some coaches and parents hovering around Park Tudor.
“We need to go out and have fun with it,” Miller said. “They were extremely motivated to get into that final four. We are definitely the underdogs in the match (this) morning. We need to work, point for point, and mentally keep each other up.”
Otte believes the Owls doubles team will play their best tennis of the season in the the coming match.
“It should be a fun match,” he said. “When you play against a high-caliber team, that typically is when you play your best tennis: you’re going to raise your level up to the opponents. We should see some really high-quality tennis (today).”
While the odds are stacked against them, both Dringenburg and Wood believe they have a shot at making the championship games, set for 2 p.m.
“We just need to stay mentally tough, we can’t get down on ourselves,” Dringenburg said. “They’re going to be a very good team. Everybody has a shot at it, it’s not impossible.”