DIXON – For about 3 months, Mary Alice Oswalt and Anne Vits pled their case. And the Long sisters have been their prize witnesses, even badgering their coaches throughout the school day Thursday.
Moments before the verdict was due in the afternoon, the honorable Ann Propheter ruled in her Newman students’ favor.
Oswalt and Vits got to play doubles, while Christina and Emily Long slid to No. 1 and No. 2 singles, respectively, against friendly foe Dixon (9-6) at Sauk Valley Community College.
“She told us like 2 seconds before we went on,” Vits said.
“And we jumped for joy,” Oswalt finished.
The match delivered the goods, forehands hissing and remarkable gets abounding.
And there was no disguising the Newman team’s glee in a 6-3, 6-4 No. 1 doubles victory
over their longtime friend,
Hayley Kent, and her partner, Jessica VanOosten, part of a 3-2 nonconference victory for the Comets (9-3).
On Vits’ service, her tandem leading 4-2 in the first set, Oswalt stood smack-dab in the center of the court and smashed a VanOosten lob, splitting the Duchess duo.
“Niiiice!” Vits hollered. “That was soooo good.”
Oswalt’s astonishing get on a ripped Kent forehand helped finish off the first set. Oswalt sprinted along the baseline, and the force of Kent’s forehand from the frontcourt allowed Oswalt’s one-handed return to soar all the way to the baseline.
Kent retreated and ran it down, but couldn’t get enough on the shot to get it back over.
The Newman duo even looked hard-wired during the near-misses. After the Comets team broke the heavy-serving Kent and the Duchesses returned the favor against the equally formidable service of Oswalt, Vits was serving up up 4-3 in the second set and 40-15 in the game.
But Oswalt, who sparkled at the net otherwise, tried some sleight of hand at the net, only to see the ball dance on the tape and fall back. She and Vits simultaneously went down into a squat, moaning “Ugh.”
The Duchesses bought themselves some time by coming all the way back to win that game but couldn’t break Oswalt again. Up 5-4, she began her service with a surgical ace along the far boundary. Four points later, it was over.
“We got really into it, because we never get to play together,” Oswalt said.
“Especially against a team we know,” Vits said, “and we know they’re good.”
While Kent was excited to face the players she’s taken lessons with for years and faced – or joined, oftentimes – in summer tournaments, she admitted the surprise made matters difficult.
“I was kind of excited, because I know they’ve been wanting to play doubles,” Kent said, “And it was definitely nice to have those really long rallies.
“But It’s actually kind of harder to play against friends. I like it more when I don’t know my opponents.”
But the foursome compared notes on each other’s program’s T-shirts, then took in the decisive match. About 2 hours after the meet began, and as rain intermittently fell, Christina Long and Jenna Longan were giving each other all they could handle at No. 1 singles.
After dropping the first set 6-3, Long evened the second set at 5-5 with backhand winner that painted the right boundary. After she broke Longan and went up 40-15 for set point, her fortuitous forehand clipped the tape and flopped inches on the other side of the net. She took the 10-point tiebreak – her sixth tiebreak in a week, according to Propheter – to win 3-6, 7-5, 10-6.
After winning her first singles match of the year, Long was swarmed by fellow seniors Hannah Davis and Allie Furr. But not before dad and mom got to her.
“We’ve got first dibs,” Bill said, he and his wife, Annette, embracing their daughter.
About an hour earlier, their second-born, sophomore Emily, finished off Katie Hammitt 6-0, 6-4. Even earlier, Dixon cruised to straight-set doubles victories, Maribeth Johnson and Stephanie Tressel beating Chantel Ordean and Rachel Heidersheit 6-2, 6-0 at No. 2, and Joan Bratt and Rachael Turffs outlasting Lupita Serrano and Taryn McKenna 6-4, 6-3 at No. 3.
Bratt and Turffs, for two, were relieved to not know their opponents very well. It helped them relax.
“We’ve had a slump the last three matches,” Bratt said.
“This picked us up and got our energy back,” Turffs added.
Dixon coach Steve Boll recently challenged his duo.
“I told them, ‘This isn’t the team I saw 4 weeks ago,’” he said. “But today, the rust fell off, and I saw that team again.”
The teams, along with Sterling, will take aim at the Rock Island Sectional in 2 weeks.