Members of two local tennis teams will carry the region's hopes for a title to Indianapolis this weekend.
Highland's No. 1 doubles team of Vani and Aby Madrigal (14-0) will compete in the 22nd annual doubles state tournament, while Kankakee Valley's No. 1 singles player Abbey Hamstra gets her chance at the 31st annual singles state tournament.
Each players has their own unique spin on the weekend.
Aby Madrigal is a defending state champ, having won the doubles title last year with partner Liz Quinn.
"There has been a certain amount of pressure to repeat because of last year's success," Aby Madrigal said. "I just try and block it out and focus on practice. Practice has been a lot of fun because I get the opportunity to play with my sister this year. This is a very unique opportunity for us to win something together, and we want to take full advantage of that opportunity."
Aby Madrigal said that the twins want to win this one for coach Adam Baez as much as they want to win for themselves.
"We're very grateful that Coach gave us the chance to play together," she said. "We want to give him a championship as a going away present to say thanks for giving us this chance."
Baez is retiring as the Highland coach at the end of the tennis season.
Twin sister Vani Madrigal played No. 1 singles most of the year for the Trojans. Baez switched to her doubles and teamed her with her sister in order to give the school its best chance to get someone downstate.
"It's been very different for me to adjust my game from singles to doubles," Vani Madrigal said. "I'm used to every ball being hit to me, used to chasing every one down. Now I have to adjust to sometimes taking a back seat and letting my partner do her job."
At last week's regional match in LaPorte, it took Vani Madrigal a full set to settle in.
"I made several unforced errors until I slowed down and adjusted," she said. "Then I got into the rhythm of the game and played much better down the stretch."
Hamstra (21-2) is making her first appearance in the state finals after losing in the regional the last two seasons.
"I am about as excited as I can be," Hamstra said. "As I practice this week, I have to keep my focus on the work I am doing and not think too far ahead. I have worked very hard during my high school career to make it to Indianapolis. As a senior, I really appreciate the chance to be in it."
Hamstra will face Claire Alvey (19-4) from Evansville Mater Dei in the first round this morning at 9. If she wins, Hamstra will play Leah Barnes (26-0) of Fort Wayne Canterbury at 1 p.m. Another win would get her to Saturday's semifinals.
"At this point, it doesn't much matter who you play," Hamstra said. "Everyone who is still playing is a very good player capable of winning it all. So you just have to go out and give it your best shot and play your style."