League tennis tiebreakers are an intricate system, with numerous categories such as matches won, sets won and games won. They are used to determine which team advances in U.S. Tennis Association league and tournament play.
Though the system is complex, the equation facing captain Joan Steinberg and her seniors team during the Southern Sectionals in Birmingham, Ala., was simple: Winning all three individual matches would guarantee a spot in the finals.
"That match was really important," Steinberg said. "We had already done the math."
The Petersburg Racquet Club team, which competes at the 3.5 rating level, defeated the state champions from Kentucky 3-0 to win group play and advance to the championship against the state champions from Tennessee.
In that match, Tennessee's deep roster proved too much, and Steinberg's squad lost 3-0.
"If we had won, we would've gone to nationals at Indian Wells in Palm Springs, Fla.," Steinberg said of the championship, held a week ago. "We almost did."
The team advanced to sectionals by winning Georgia's state tournament in early June with a squad of nine players. One of them, Katherine Crook, was unable to attend the sectionals.
"She was in touch by phone and e-mail all week," Steinberg said. "She was keeping up with us."
With eight players going against a Tennessee team that carried more players, Steinberg said her team might not have been as fresh as Tennessee's after going through group play in scorching heat.
Teams can use different arrangements of team members for the three doubles matches in each team match. However, six of Steinberg's eight players had to play at a time, leaving little time for rest.
The finalist finish was an improvement from last year. Five of the eight players were on the team that competed in sectionals last year.
All 10 teams at the sectionals level were state champions, so there were no weak teams, Steinberg said. However, she thought the state level might have been even tougher because there were far more teams. Her team had to go through group play and win three rounds after that to earn the state title.
The Petersburg team finished the season 17-2 -- 6-0 in local league play, 8-0 at the state level, and 3-2 at sectionals.
Diane Hess said she enjoyed the camaraderie of traveling out of town with her teammates and learning more about them. On the court, she had one of the best runs of tennis she has ever had, she said.
Hess played in seven of the eight matches at state and won them all. She was undefeated at sectionals before losing an individual match to Tennessee.
"I've played tennis since I was 12. I was lucky enough to play on the first women's team my high school ever had in Pennsylvania," Hess said. "But this was the first time I ever got to that level. It's something that I'll always remember."
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