Last year, Claire-Mitchell Andrews and Natalie Franklin were faced with the pressure of having to win their No. 2 doubles match at the Class 4A state tournament for Plant High to win the girls tennis team title.
On Tuesday at Sanlando Park, the senior duo was faced with a similar situation. Plant needed to win both semifinals and finals doubles matches to earn a tie with Miami Dr. Krop.
After the Panthers' No. 1 team of Blair Martin and Gaby Rodriguez defeated Winter Park, 6-0, 6-2 to win the state title, all attention turned to Andrews and Franklin's match with Miami Palmetto.
Playing their second doubles match of the day and third overall, Andrews and Franklin prevailed in a 4-6, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4) marathon that took nearly three hours.
"This one was a little more intense," said first-year Plant coach Margaret Drumsta. "They have come a long way. I told them before the doubles started that win or lose, I am so proud of each one of you."
This doubles team almost didn't even play together. Franklin was originally playing No. 5 singles with Erica Oosterhaut playing No. 4 and partnering with Andrews on No. 2 doubles. But an injury to Oosterhaut moved Franklin to No. 4 singles and on to the doubles team.
"We wanted to play together so badly because we played together last year," said Franklin, who also brought home a gold medal for winning the No. 4 singles state title. "I never expected to be playing doubles. It was upsetting when I was at No. 5 singles but I accepted it. From the beginning, we wanted to play doubles at state."
"It was meant to be," added Andrews.
Martin and Rodriguez will play today in the overall doubles championship which features the team doubles champion against the individual doubles winner.
In other Class 4A action, the Plant No. 1 doubles team of Tristen Kaye and Alec Josepher lost their semifinal match to Weston Cypress Bay. In the individual singles tournament, Wiregrass Ranch's Courage Okungbowa and Star Makarome lost their championship matches to finish second.
At Red Bug Lake Park, the doubles teams from Jesuit (Jordan Wasser-Jamie Sullivan) and Academy of the Holy Names (Sarah Port-Korina Hernandez) lost in the semifinals.