VCHS seniors Victoria Dokey and Jessica Earnest started believing in miracles after pulling off an 8-4 upset of the host program’s No. 1 team Saturday at the Highland Doubles Tournament.
But they still can’t believe how many more miracles they would go on to experience in a stunning championship run.
‘I’m still in shock that we won,’ said Earnest when asked to recount the details of she and Dokey’s subsequent wins over Greenville and Centralia.
The former secured Earnest and Dokey no worse than a second-place finish in the tournament – and the Lady Vandals duo was 100-percent content with settling for runner-up status.
‘After we beat Greenville, we looked at each other and said, ‘Hey, we get a trophy!” said Earnest of a 9-7 win over Katie Mangelsdorf and Ashley Honsfull.
And second place was looking to be the duo’s fate after Centralia’s Jennifer Ingersoll and Shelby Smith jumped to a quick 3-0 lead in the title match.
The Orphan Annies top team would go on to extend that lead to 6-2 before pulling within a game of victory with a comfortable 7-3 advantage.
But Dokey and Earnest battled back from the edge of the edge, surviving three match points before realizing their coach’s words of encouragement were true.
‘They didn’t think they were as good as Centralia,’ Vandals coach Kevin Schroeder said. ‘But I kept telling them, ‘You guys are as good as that Centralia team is.”
Doubt seemed to creep into Centralia’s mind just as Dokey and Earnest’s confidence was restored.
‘Their attitude changed as the match went along,’ Schroeder said. ‘They got down 3-0 real fast. But once they got it 7-5, boy, you could really see Centralia tighten up a little bit.’
Earnest agreed, ‘Centralia was pressing real bad. I just told Victoria, ‘They’re getting nervous, we don’t have anything to lose.”
Next thing Dokey and Earnest knew, Centralia was making errors left and right, as the Lady Vandals’ top team rallied to tie the match 7-7 by winning four straight games.
Centralia temporarily recovered, taking an 8-7 lead. But Dokey and Earnest rebounded to even the score at 8-8, forcing a tiebreaker they would win 7-3 in delightfully bizarre fashion.
‘It ended when a Centralia girl hit the net on a wide-open shot,’ Schroeder said. ‘You could hear her racket tick the net.’
Earnest had no idea what had occurred, as she had her back turned to the net. But Dokey and her VCHS teammates were glad to alert the senior of the surprising news.
‘Then she ran to me and we started screaming,’ Dokey said. ‘We thought beating Highland was our miracle. You’re looking at a double-miracle right here.’
Earnest and Dokey weren’t the only ones surprised to be taking home a championship trophy.
‘Really, I didn’t anticipate this, either,’ Schroeder said.
In his 15 years as Lady Vandals coach, no VCHS doubles team has went undefeated in the tournament.
The last team to win it – Dana Kirk and Josie Earnest (Jessica’s older sister) – finished 3-1.
‘It’s quite an accomplishment,’ said Schroeder of Earnest and Dokey’s 4-0 run.
And, considering Kirk and Jessica Earnest would go on to qualify for state, the accomplishment could signal bigger things to come.
Dokey and Earnest have only played a handful of doubles matches together and should improve as the season goes on.
‘They got better as the day went on,’ Schroeder said. ‘So hopefully we’ll see improvement from here on.
‘The more they play with each other, the more comfortable they’ll be with each other. Then you never know what’ll happen when it comes down to sectionals.’
The championship should prove beneficial when the seeding meeting for the Effingham Sectional rolls around.
Schroeder said that getting a sectional seed is a doubles teams only realistic shot at having a chance to advance to state.
‘When I go to sectional meetings, all those wins will help,’ Schroeder said. ‘They know Highland and Centralia are traditionally strong in tennis. The more wins they get like that, the easier it’ll be to get a seed.’
Team Standings – 1. Centralia 19, 2. Highland 14, 3. Hillsboro 6, 4. Greenville 6, 5. Vandalia 5.
No. 1 Doubles
Jessica Earnest/Victoria Dokey
1st place – def. Jennifer Ingersoll/Shelby Smith (C) 9-8 (7-3), def. Katie Mangelsdorf/Ashley Horsfall (G) 9-7, def. Liz Stumpf/Katie Wiese (HIG) 8-4, def. Shelby Niemann/Megan Williamson (HIL) 8-2.
No. 2 Doubles
Lily Opfer/Constance Opfer
5th place – lost 8-1 to Denigan/Bauer (C), lost 8-2 to Isringhausen/Kalous (G), lost 8-0 to Miller/Strasser (HIG), lost 8-1 to Tracker/Pianfetti (HIL).
No. 3 Doubles
Sarah Hutchison/Natasha Opfer
5th place – lost 8-1 to Monique/Wheking (C), lost 8-4 to Alderman/Evans (G), lost 8-0 to Rausch/Olivars (HIG), lost 8-0 to Clark/Thacker (HIL).
No. 4 Doubles
Lauren Wasmuth/Callie George
5th place – lost 8-1 to Lynch/Johnson (C), lost 8-1 to Funneman/Langham (G), lost 8-3 to Beckman/Nicoloff (HIG), lost 8-1 to Wallace/Vunetich (HIL).
No. 5 Doubles
Abby Hickerson/Cassie Goodin
4th place – lost 8-1 to Miller/Tockstein (C), won by forfeit over Greenville, lost 8-0 to Clark/Miller (HIG), lost 8-5 to Keiser/White (HIL).