LAPORTE | With Kelly Kennedy icing her back on a picnic table, the rest of the Valparaiso girls tennis team had no choice but to play a little harder.
The Vikings overcame Kennedy's injury with strong performances from their singles players as well as a gritty effort from the No. 2 doubles team of Kate Spencer and Rachel Crookston to pull out a 3-2 victory over South Bend St. Joseph's on Tuesday evening.
Valparaiso will take on Penn in the LaPorte regional final this afternoon. Penn swept Michigan City in the other semifinal.
"When Kelly went up 4-3 in her set, the team got momentum from that," Valparaiso coach Tim Shideler said. "She was up before she got hurt, and then it helped that Caitlin (Kennedy) was the next one off. We had momentum going for us."
Rachel Willing recovered from a 3-1 deficit in the second set to win the final five games for a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Amanda Hasting at No. 3 singles.
That win gave the Vikings (18-1) a 2-1 lead with both doubles matches tied at one set each.
"I really wasn't paying attention to what was happening in the singles matches," Crookston said. "I was just trying to stay focused on our match."
Spencer and Crookston buckled down and were dominant in the third set, pulling out a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 victory that gave the Vikings the match. Spencer, a senior, has yet to lose a doubles match this season.
"We'd beaten them (4-1) earlier this season and that helped give us the mental attitude to win," Spencer said. "I was paying attention to the other matches and knew we had to pull it out.
"It was really an intense match."
The Vikings know they have quite a challenge with Penn.
"We've got our work cut out for us," Shideler said. "We'll try to win some points, turn those into a game and then a set. Then you never know."
The Wolves (15-4) held their heads high despite getting swept by Penn for the second straight season. Lenka Zavodska forced a third set against Haylei Snelson at No. 1 singles and that was enough to bring a smile to the face of Michigan City coach Don Varda.
"This is the best season we've had and a lot has to do with Lenka and Carolin (Stuetz)," Varda said. "This was a step in the right direction for us and our returning girls took their game to another level."