Needing a sole win to secure school history, Emma Wood sprinted to No. 1 doubles partner Karen Dringenburg at the center of their court with wide eyes and unbridled energy to relay a message.
“Hey, it’s ad in, this is for the conference,” Wood said. “Not individually, but for the team.”
The doubles tandem put that final point away emphatically, let out a scream of excitement and met for a bear hug as co-coaches Jennifer Miller and Nathan Otte received high-fives from the sizable Owls crowd on the sidelines.
The Seymour girls tennis team claimed its first Hoosier Hills Conference title since joining the league in 1997 with a 5-0 sweep against Floyd Central on Friday.
The Owls didn’t drop a single match in the three-match conference tournament.
Floyd Central had won 12 of the past titles, including seven straight crowns.
“To break that streak (Floyd Central) had is huge,” Miller said. “To do something for this program that’s never been done before is huge. These girls have been absolutely awesome to coach. They have great attitudes, and to have success in tennis really shows that their hard work can pay off.”
The final team score didn’t reflect the tightness of the matches.
“They were tough, they were close, but it was nice to see us get it done in two sets at all five positions,” Miller said. “They really just pushed through when it came down to getting it done. We had a couple of tiebreaks, and to see the girls be able to win at the end of sets really shows their mental game is where it needs to be.”
Dringenburg, a senior, and Wood, a junior, defeated Alexis Applegate and Erin Patterson 6-4, 6-4 in a gritty match. The Owls were up 5-4 in both sets, and finished with confidence to pick up the win.
That match immediately decided the conference crown.
“We went into the match knowing that all those hours, working until 9 at night on the court was going to pay off,” Dringenburg said. “I think being aggressive at the net is when we started winning games.
“When we put the ball away it was probably the best feeling of my life.”
At No. 1 singles, German exchange student Julia Adam was the first to come off the court for the Owls with a 6-1, 6-2 victory against Kailyn Little.
Adam dominated the baseline throughout the match, leading 5-1 and 5-2 in the first and second set, to give the Owls the first win.
Second to come off the court was No. 3 singles senior Kennedy Richart, who won 6-2, 7-6 (8) against the Highlanders’ Madison Woosley.
Down 6-5, Richart evened the second set to force a tiebreaker. Richart built a 6-1 lead in the tiebreak, but Woosley came back to tie the match at 6-6. Richart gutted out the final two points to win the match at the baseline.
At No. 2 singles, Owls senior Marley Vehslage was the fourth member of the squad to finish.
Vehslage had a grinder of a match, with ground strokes turning into long rallies, in a 6-4, 7-5 win against Katie Sparrow.
“We’ve been working from offseason until now,” Vehslage said. “For us seniors this means a lot. I had to have faith in my shots. I had to be patient to put a shot away or wait. It all just happened.”
The final match was at No. 2 doubles, where junior Lindsey Hume and sophomore Hallie Crenshaw won 7-6 (8), 6-3.
Hume and Crenshaw were met by their teammates, who sprinted to celebrate.
Sophomore Megan Baurle also met with the team, as she won her first two matches in the HHC tournament against Madison and Jeffersonville.
With the win, the Owls move to 17-2 on the season and have won 15 straight matches. The Owls also have swept 15 matches 5-0.
The sectional draw will be conducted Monday at Seymour.
“The girls were really pumped up before the match, and its been a big focus for us, not just for this season but for the past 12 months,” Miller said. “We lost to Floyd Central in the semifinals last year, and this was our goal. It gives them a lot of motivation to not just get through the sectional, but really believe they can do something in regional.”
The last Seymour athletics team to win an HHC title was the 2011 volleyball team.