American Fork senior Jacqueline Taggart and junior Amber Johnson said they enjoy competing in long tennis matches.
It’s a good thing too, because the Cavemen No. 2 doubles team was on the court for more than five-and-a-half hours during Wednesday’s first day at the 6A state girls tennis tournament at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City.
“I actually like playing in long matches,” Taggart said. “But it is a plus when you win them.”
Johnson added: “It was a super-long day, but I felt like once we started encouraging each other, we were able to get the wins.”
They put together a Cinderella run on the first day as the No. 4-seeded duo went three sets to defeat the top Region 2 doubles team from Hillcrest (T. Sharp and J. Ulrich), then used three more sets to defeat the No. 3-seeded team from Clearfield (Hannah Smith and Jip Schouten) and advanced to Friday’s semifinal.
“It was kind of a battle of attrition for them,” American Fork head coach Jason Harrud said. “They would be Jekyll and Hyde, either hit winners or miss. We learned throughout the season that you can’t get too high or low with them but they usually come through in the end.”
Taggart and Johnson appeared to be in trouble early in their first round match as they dropped the opening set to their Husky opponents, 6-1.
But Herrud said that doubles team has played in more three-set matches than anyone, so he wasn’t surprised to see them come back.
The Cavemen did just that, eking out the 7-5 win in Set No. 2, then finishing the match with a 6-4 win in Set No. 3.
Taggart and Johnson then followed a similar path against the Falcon duo of Smith and Schouten.
They lost the opening frame, 6-2, and actually were tied at 5-5 in the second-set tiebreaker. They said, however, that they were comfortable being in a situation where they were that close to losing.
“We just try to get our serves in and then go back to the basics,” Johnson said.
Taggart added: “We pretend it’s the first point instead of the last and take it point by point.”
American Fork scored two straight to get the 7-6 (7-5) tiebreak victory, then surged in front by winning the first three games of the third set.
But Clearfield rallied to win two straight games and had three break points in the next one, giving the Falcons a chance to tie things up.
But Taggart and Johnson just kept making plays, eventually securing the win in that game.
“Our motto is that this point is ours,” Johnson said. “If we don’t get it, then we’ll get the next one.”
They needed three match points but Johnson finally hit a cross-court volley to secure the three set win, 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3.
“That’s the moment where you feel like all the hard work had paid off,” Herrud said. “You see them through the ups and downs, and that’s a great feeling to watch them pull that match out.”
Now Caveman doubles team faces a tough challenge as another matchup with the powerful Lone Peak duo of junior Katie King and senior Cami Gricius is looming. The Knights won both of their matches without losing a single game.
“Our mentality is that if we win, we win, and if we lose, we lose,” Johnson said. “We will focus on getting our shots. We know how to play them.”
While Taggart and Johnson are the only American Fork representatives in the semifinals, King and Gricius were joined by all of their other Knight teammates.
“Our goal was to get everyone through the first day and luckily we did that,” Lone Peak head coach Roger Baumgartner said. “It was a good day overall. The girls did everything we asked. They served well and played smart. It set up some intriguing semifinals and potential finals.”
The Knights are locked in a duel for the team title with Davis, who also got all five of their participants through to the semifinals.
Baumgartner explained the he has five girls who have been in this position before during previous state-title runs, so they know what to expect.
“The impressive thing about this group all year has been that they play loose and have fun,” he said. “They get focused when they need to be but they are comfortable now and that’s the way we like it.”
The other Lone Peak semifinalists are junior Daniella Aaron (No. 1 singles), junior Anna Aaron (No. 2 singles), senior Rachel Neeleman (No. 3 singles) and junior Joslin Seaberg and junior Zoie Black (No. 2 doubles).
Pleasant Grove also will be well-represented in the semifinals as sophomore Lilly Craft and freshman Maci Amussen reached the semifinals in No. 1 doubles, and junior Maddy Harris and sophomore Cami Whiting made it through in No. 2 doubles.
The final round of the 6A state tennis tournament is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. Friday at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City.
For complete results, go to UHSAA,org.