When Abby Perkins of Mason won five straight games after falling behind 6-3, 3-0 in her Division 2 regional final on Friday, it looked a lot like a year earlier when she rallied to edge Irene Ng of Okemos 1-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Then-freshman Draga Sabotic was watching that regional final on the same tennis court at East Lansing High School.
She was determined to not let it happen to her, although Perkins made it come down to the last four points of a tiebreaker that was tied 4-4. Sabotic narrowly prevailed 7-5 in the tiebreaker to win 6-4, 4-6, 7-6.
“Tiebreakers are always stressful. No tiebreaker is ever easy, especially with a player like Draga,” Perkins said. “She’s tough. She never backs down. She trains so hard, and I’m really happy for her. If anyone else were to win, I would want her to win.”
Al Inkala has seen a lot of great matches in his 20 seasons coaching the Okemos girls.
“That was one of the better ones I’ve seen,” he said. “I think there was more consistency on both sides today (than Perkins’ match with Ng a year ago).”
Only Abby’s younger sister, freshman Samantha Perkins, kept Okemos from sweeping regional titles at all eight singles and doubles flights. She edged Kylie Wilkinson 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 to win at third singles for Mason, which compiled 22 points to join the Chiefs (with 31 points) and East Lansing (with 19) in qualifying as complete teams for the Division 2 state finals on May 31 and June 1 at Grand Blanc and Holly.
“I couldn’t have been more more pleased, especially the doubles that I’ve been worried about all year,” Inkala said.
Abby Perkins got off to the slow start even though she captured the Division 2 state title a year ago.
“I just needed to calm down, trust my strokes and understand that I didn’t need to hit amazing shots,” she said. “I just had to get the proper shot to end the point.”
Sabotic, a Division 2 state champion herself a year ago at No. 3 singles, responded to Perkins’ winning five straight games by taking one of her own to narrow the gap to 5-4. Then the two went to 10 deuces before Perkins won the next game and the second set.
“I didn’t want to go into a third set so I was pushing myself as strong as I could to win that set,” Sabotic said. “But she was playing really well, so I couldn’t do that.”
Abby rallied again from a 3-1 deficit in the third set and was serving for the match with a 5-4 lead.
“I needed to be focused and make my first serves, but my serve has always been a struggle,” Abby said.
Abby had to rely on seconds serves for six of the serves in that game, which Sabotic won to tie the match at 5-5.
Sabotic has lost just one match in her high school career, on May 4 to Mollie Fox of Bloomfield Hills Lahser – a player Perkins edged in a 2012 state semifinal.
Sabotic’s sophomore teammate Emily Struble, the defending Division 2 state champion at No. 2 singles, remained undefeated for her career by topping Mason’s Emily Hall to take the No. 2 singles regional title.
Mya Srkalovic won at No. 4 singles, and Okemos swept the regional doubles titles with Ally Hopping and Catherine Wingrove at No. 1, Marie Lazar and Nikki Nordberg at No. 2, Saloni Shah and Keerthana Kolisetty at No. 3, and MacKenzie DeSautel and Sydney Williams at No. 4.
DIVISION 1 AT SAGINAW HERITAGE: Grand Ledge finished fifth with 10 points and Holt eighth with five points.
The Comets’ Lauren Sharp advanced to the semifinals at No. 1 singles, as did Angela VanDeVusse at No. 4 singles and Kiara Berry and Kayleigh Merz at No. 2 doubles.