For the third consecutive year, Greenwood has earned its way to the IHSAA Girls Tennis State Finals.
Greenwood (19-2) had its hands full Saturday but edged Terre Haute North 3-2 in its semistate championship match at Center Grove.
In Saturday’s other semifinal, No. 5 Park Tudor breezed to a 5-0 win against Richmond.
The seventh-ranked Woodmen will play Park Tudor in a quarterfinals match Friday at Center Grove.
The second quarterfinal will have top-ranked Carmel meeting Floyd Central.
The semifinals and team state championship will be at North Central on Saturday.
The outcome of the Woodmen’s two-hour match against the Patriots was left in doubt until Greenwood’s No. 2 doubles team of senior Madison Gaudian and sophomore Abby Chatham scratched and clawed its way to a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 victory against sophomore Kayla Jarvis and freshman Molly Farmer.
In each of the last three seasons, the Woodmen have come up with a semistate team-clinching third point in the late going.
In 2012 and 2013, senior Makenzie Estrem was in the spotlight, bringing home wins in the No. 3 singles spot against Zionsville and Terre Haute South.
But on Saturday, all eyes were riveted on court No. 4, where spectators watched anxiously outside the fence.
As the match grew longer and longer, vocal support became louder and louder on each side.
The key to Greenwood’s win came in the deciding third set, with the Woodmen up 2-1 following three service breaks in a row.
Gaudian, who had a high percentage of successful first serves, gave Greenwood the momentum it needed to push through the remaining five games for a 6-2 victory.
Coach Steve Gantz, in his 20th year, described the finish as a “wild one.”
“It’s been the same thing the last three years,” Gantz said. “Somebody has come through when we really needed it.”
Senior twin siblings Jade and Jackie Kawamoto secured the Woodmen’s first two points in their typical rapid-fire style, both in less than 45 minutes, respectively, at the Nos. 1 and 2 singles.
Jade Kawamoto defeated freshman Hannah Rudolph 6-0, 6-1, and Jackie, the reigning individual state champion, blanked sophomore Meredith Egan 6-0, 6-0.
Both are undefeated this season at 23-0 record.
Assistant coach John Hannah, who mentors the doubles teams, said Gaudian and Chatham stayed loose and used each other to their advantage.
“They fought well as teammates and kept each other up with some laughter along the way to stay loose,” Hannah said. “It was a fun thing to see them not kind of hide and get tight under the pressure.”
Gaudian, who went through commencement exercises Friday, along with Estrem and the Kawamoto twins, said she was playing on little to no sleep.
“Graduation was definitely exciting, but this match was by far more exciting,” Gaudian said. “I’m just so thankful to be a part of it this. I knew we had to pull through it. We had to give everything we could.
“Having our team and fans cheering us on really helped.”
Chatham echoed the sentiment.
“Sometimes the pressure gets to me,” she said, “but I focused on every single point, and I knew that if we we stayed positive it would keep us on the same page.”
Greenwood came up short in the No. 3 singles match and at No. 1 doubles.
Terre Haute North senior Laura Mascari defeated Estrem 6-3, 6-1 and the doubles team of junior Caroline Potter and freshman Samantha Dougherty got by Greenwood junior Ali Youngman and sophomore Joanna Moran 6-1, 6-1.
In preparation for the week ahead, Gantz said they’ll use the time wisely.
“We’ve had a long season and we’ve hit a lot of balls, so we’re going to refine some things to get ready,” he said. “We’ve been there before and we’re hoping to come out firing to see how we can do.”