PORTAGE | Valparaiso junior Sonja Schaefer was definitely happy to be playing doubles tennis Tuesday.
"My nerves were going wild," Schaefer said. "It was great that I was playing doubles, because Amanda (Stolarz) was there to pick me up."
Schaefer and Stolarz rallied from a set down and 2-5 in the final set to pull out a thrilling 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 win at No. 2 doubles, helping the Vikings edge Michigan City 3-2 and advance to today's Portage Regional championship.
The Vikings (14-4) will face Hobart (10-9) at 4:30 p.m. for the crown.
Valparaiso's comeback at No. 2 doubles capped off a furious rally from the Vikings, who won the final three matches to pull out the victory.
"I'm still really feeling it," said Schaefer of the clinching victory. "I was still nervous at 3-5 (in the third set), but we gained confidence when we tied it at 5-5.
"Even in we lost a game, I knew we wouldn't lose two. Seeing the exhilaration of my teammates also helped pull us together."
The Wolves (14-3), which lost 4-1 to Valpo on May 5, took command early with straight-set victories at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles. The 6-2, 6-0 win by Lauren Palmer and Ashleigh Ellenwood reversed an earlier 6-4, 6-3 loss to the Vikings.
"We felt like we let some matches slip away before," Michigan City coach Norm Bruemmer said. "The No. 2 doubles match was one of momentum. We got it back (in the third set), but Valpo took it away from us."
Caitlin Kennedy (No. 2 singles) and Katie McDonald (No. 3) each won in straight sets to set up the clinching match at No. 2 doubles.
"We just don't point to one match and say we have to have it in the end," Valparaiso coach Tim Shideler said. "We know any one can pick us up."
The Brickies advanced to the championship with a 5-0 win over Lake Station. Hobart coach Karen Blauuw said it's the team's first trip to the finals.
"We're starting to build a tradition," said Blauuw, whose team lost in the semifinals the last two seasons. "We're just continuing to build."
Reena Childers helped the sweep with a 6-3, 6-1 win at No. 1 singles.
"We're happy to get this far," Childers said, "and we don't want to stop.
"Last year when we got to the semis, it was like, 'Here goes nothing.' This year I'm more confident in my skills."
Valpo defeated Hobart 5-0 on April 5, but Stolarz doesn't see her teammates letting down their guard.
"I've got the energy to play right now," Stolarz said. "I plan on being more aggressive than ever."