Times Sports Editor
The Northview girls' tennis team is used to celebrating sectional championships, but the past two seasons have felt the despair of a title match loss to Owen Valley. On Friday night, Northview returned to its spot as a sectional champion in a marathon battle with Greencastle.
That left Northview junior Nicole Linton in a position to put her team over the edge in her No. 2 singles match with a victory. Linton battled back after losing the first set to the Tiger Cubs' Harriet Watson to claim the second set. From there, Linton battled through to take the deciding third set and with it, a title for the Knights.
"It was hard, but I really wanted to win for my team because they were counting on me. If I wouldn't have won, I knew we wouldn't have won the sectional for the third year in a row. It was a lot of pressure, but Coach (Emily) Goff and Coach (Laura) McCrea really helped me through it."
Linton was up 5-4 in the opening set before Watson rallied back to win the final three points to claim the lead in the match under steamy conditions that began to take their toll late in the match.
In the second set, Linton shook off any thoughts of letting the first set get away as she won the opening four points of set number two. Playing against Watson, a player that played powerfully to the baselines, Linton admitted she needed to change her strategy.
"When I tried to start that second set, I thought to myself, 'She's got me. So I'm just going to try and slow the process down.'" Linton said. "A lot of the strategy was letting (the ball) slow down when it hit the court. If I was closer than I wouldn't have been able to return it. A lot of the deep shots I had to be back for."
The change of pace paid off as Linton tied the match with a 6-2 win in the second set and then rallied back from being down 2-0 and 4-3 in the deciding third set. Linton evened the set at 4-all and won the final two points to secure the team victory.
With all eyes on the final match as the other four matches had been completed, Linton credited her teammates for the support they provided down the stretch.
"I have to tell you that if it wasn't for my team then I wouldn't have won," Linton said. "I give a lot of it to them."
Linton's match was far from the only one that was long as Kelsey Oehler rallied back from a first set loss to force a third set before falling to Kayla Chadd in a No. 3 singles battle, 5-7, 6-4, 2-6.
The No. 1 doubles team of Jenna Smith and Trisha Cox were the only players with postseason experience from last season and the duo earned a 6-1, 7-6 (7-4) tiebreak win.
Afterward, Goff was impressed with the determination her team showed in going deep into matches and keeping their focus.
"Nicole's match was unbelievable. She gave it everything she had and left it all out there," Goff said of the junior. "We had a tiebreaker at No. 1 doubles and at No. 2 and No. 3 singles both went three sets. That shows that they really stayed with it. We start conditioning in January after school three days a week. The girls gave it all they could and showed plenty of fight. The conditioning really paid off in an almost three hour match."
The Knights also got a win at No. 2 doubles as Shelby Timberman and Kaysia Reberger finished their match first with a 6-2, 6-4 straight set victory. Greencastle evened the match at one match apiece as Haylie Romer won over Haley Leach at No. 1 singles, 6-4, 6-1.
The victory was especially sweet after a two-year drought that followed five straight championships by the Knights. The tennis sectional title was the 15th overall for Northview.
"I'm really proud of the girls. They are a really hard working group," Goff said. "They didn't have a lot of experience and we didn't have as good a regular season as we wanted, but the finish to the sectional was amazing. The girls worked hard for it."
The Knights advance to Tuesday's Greencastle Regional where they will take on North Montgomery, the winner of the Crawfordsville Sectional, in the first match.
Northview Tennis Sectional
Northview 3, Greencastle 2
No. 1: Haylie Romer (GC) wins over Haley Leach (Nv), 6-4, 6-1
No. 2: Nicole Linton (Nv) wins over Harriet Watson (GC), 5-7, 6-2, 6-4
No. 3: Kayla Chadd (GC) wins over Kelsey Oehler (Nv), 7-5, 4-6, 6-2
No. 1: Jenna Smith and Trisha Cox (Nv) win over Sabrina Arnold and Carlie Harlin (GC), 6-1, 7-6 (7-4)
No. 2: Shelby Timberman and Kaysia Reberger (Nv) win over Bailey Brewer and Katie Burns (GC), 6-2, 6-4