DIVISION I-A GIRLS: Crusaders rally to earn first state final berth

Faith Lutheran’s girls tennis team’s trip to the state tournament very nearly was a short one.

Enter Vanessa Lee. And Kathleen Wright. And Lexi Cubley.

The Crusaders trailed Northern Region champion South Tahoe, 7-5 entering the final round, but clawed their way back to claim a 10-9 win over the Vikings in the Division I-A girls semifinals at the Reno Tennis Center.

“It was incredible. The girls fought so hard,” said Faith Lutheran coach Jeff Foley, whose team advanced to its first state final and will face The Meadows (16-1) at noon on Friday.

Lee’s match was the final one to end, and it went to a tiebreaker with the Crusaders trailing 9-8 in the team competition. Lee eventually pulled out a 7-6(4) win over South Tahoe’s Natalie Allen to square the match and force an extra round.

“She knew it,” Foley said of Lee needing to win her match to force a team tiebreaker. “Everybody was lined up along the fence watching. She handled it great. She competed well and kept her feet moving.”

With the match even after regulation, each team sent out its original starting lineup to play a one-game tiebreaker. The Crusaders (17-3) won four of the six to clinch the match.

Wright and Cubley, who both lost to their tiebreaker opponent in the opening round, pulled out narrow wins just seconds apart to give Faith Lutheran the victory. Had either lost her tiebreaker, the Crusaders would have lost the match on total tiebreaker points.

“It happened at the same time, and we couldn’t even see what happened,” Foley said. “Right as Lexi won we heard people yelling and it took a second to figure out it was the Faith Lutheran people jumping up and down.”

Lee also secured her tiebreaker, as did the Crusaders’ doubles team of Stacie Graham and Sarah Escoto.

Lee finished 2-0, and Wright was 2-1 for Faith Lutheran. Rachel Taber and Chandler Young were 3-0 in doubles for the Crusaders.

“There have been a lot of firsts for us this year,” Foley said. “The goal was to grow this program and start building through the junior high levels, and hopefully someday get to the level of a (Bishop) Gorman. We’re going a little quicker than I expected.”

Maggie Lee went 3-0 in singles for the Vikings (8-3).

The Meadows 12, Incline 0 — The only thing that could stop The Meadows on Thursday was darkness.

The Mustangs dropped only nine total games en route to an easy win over the Highlanders (5-7) and a berth in the final. The match was halted after two rounds due to darkness. Reno Tennis Center has only four lighted courts.

“We’ve been working hard all year, and we have a very strong team,” Mustangs coach Frideric Prandecki said. “The girls were a little worried today, but they came out and played hard.”

Erika Mauban, Anjali Daulat and Bhavana Janga swept the six singles sets. The doubles teams of Taler Brazell and Samantha Gondy, Amanda Brazell and Ava Frazier, and Shaleni Shah and Shayley Shimkus each went 2-0.

Mauban, Daulat and the Brazell twins all were a part of the Mustangs’ 2010 state championship team.

“That helps tremendously,” Prandecki said. “We have four girls who are telling the younger girls what to expect and what it’s like.”