ALEXANDRIA — The recipe for Lapel to flip a 3-2 loss to Alexandria in the Madison County Girls Tennis Tournament semifinals earlier this year was simple. The Bulldogs needed repeat wins by both doubles team and at least one singles player to break through.
But, except for one three-game stretch, the Tigers singles players were just too much for the Bulldogs.
Alex swept the singles matches, dropping a total of just eight games in the process, and knocked off the defending sectional champions 3-2 Friday, advancing to Saturday's championship.
The Tigers will face Frankton, 5-0 winners over Elwood in the other semifinal match. Alex defeated the Eagles by a 4-1 score earlier this season, a meeting that featured several close matches.
The Alexandria singles players got off to fast starts, and once they gained momentum, the Bulldogs had a tough time making any headway.
At No. 3 singles, Rylee Pyle put the first point of the match on the board with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Megan Sundheimer. This was a much closer match earlier in the season, when Pyle won 6-4, 6-4.
"I figured it would be 3-2 one way or the other, to be honest," Lapel coach Justin Coomer said. "We got off to slow starts all the way around. ... Some of them were able to get it going, and some weren't. (Alex) is a good team. Hats off to them. It's a good program."
The Bulldogs evened things at 1-1 as their No. 2 doubles team of Makayla McDole and Mariah Mason rolled to a 6-4, 6-2 win over Taylor Stinefield and Gracyn Hosier. In the previous match, Lapel won by default due to an injury to Hosier during the match.
"Both teams have improved through the year, so I didn't know what to expect," Alexandria coach Matt DeVault said. "I didn't know what to expect at two doubles because of the situation that happened earlier this year."
Despite several long rallies and points, Alex's McKenzie Adams rolled to a 6-1, 6-2 win at No. 1 singles over Lapel's Bailey Baxter.
"Baxter came out and played really well in that first set. The points were tight," DeVault said. "She looked a lot more relaxed than she did at county. But, to McKenzie's credit, she kept grinding away and moving the ball left to right and got back into her game."
After the first set of the No. 2 singles match, it appeared Alex was well on its way as Kelsey Rhoades won 6-0 in dominant fashion. But Lapel senior Julia Beeler regrouped and played well in the second set, jumping out to a 3-0 lead.
"She just kind of turned it around," Coomer said. "This thing is mental. There's different types of pressure in a tournament versus a regular match. She battled. She had her chances but just couldn't finish a couple of those games. Otherwise, we might be headed to a third set. Then you never know what happens."
But Rhoades broke Beeler's serve twice to get back within 3-4 before she reeled off three straight games, including a third break of serve, to take the match 6-0, 6-4, clinching the victory for Alexandria.
The final match to be decided was at No. 1 doubles where Lapel's Emily Eppert and Zoe Freer, after surviving a long first set, took control in the second for a 7-5, 6-2 decision over Carlie Remington and Reiley Hiser. With the win, Eppert and Freer will move on in the doubles tournament next week at Marion.
"Once they closed out that first set, I think you saw what they can do in the second," Coomer said.
One of the more memorable matches from Alexandria's win over Frankton earlier this year was a three-set, three-hour match between Rhoades and Frankton's No. 2 Chainey Lowe, which the Alex sophomore won in come-from-behind fashion. She said a good start will be key.
"I'm excited," Rhoades said. "I think it will be interesting. I'll just have to come out strong, play like I did today, and we'll see."
In other area action, Madison-Grant fell to Marion 5-0 in the Marion sectional finals while Shenandoah topped New Castle 4-1 and will defend its title against Blue River Valley on Saturday at 10 a.m. at New Castle.