The Woodbury girls' tennis team was up 3-1 and was searching for that fourth point to clinch the win in the section finals on Thursday.
Julie Nguyen, Woodbury's No. 2 singles player, was up 5-1 over Simley's Catie Thoemke in the third set when she had match point to finish this match.
Before the point, she looked over at head coach Brandon Heath. He looked at her and clapped his hands as he said, "Hit it Julie. Just hit it Julie."
She did exactly that as she placed the ball beautifully to win match point and capture that fourth point for the Royals. As she was heading to the net to shake hands, she saw her teammates in the background and gave a small fist pump to show her excitement.
The Royals are heading to the state tournament. Natalie Mercill finished off her opponent in No. 4 singles to earn the fifth point and the Woodbury girls ran over to her after the match to celebrate with her as well.
Thursday night will be a night that many of the girls remember for a long time because they've been here before with a different outcome.
"I've been on this team for six years and I know what hard losses fell like," said Delaney Schurhamer. "And finally able to get through I'm just so happy for all the girls on the team and I can't wait to see what happens at state."
The Woodbury girls have been in these section finals many times and it always seems like Eagan is in the way to reaching state. The Royals have lost to the Wildcats three years and they knew this year was their shot.
The Royals lineup was more experienced and had a mixture of young and veteran talent to develop a well-rounded starting lineup. After talking to Schurhamer and Mercill at the beginning of the season, this was the goal and to achieve it is a dream come true for these girls.
There were tears of joy and hugs given to every player because this match against Simley wasn't an easy one to win.
"Simley played a hard fought match tonight and they had a great season," Heath said. "I'm just so proud of these girls and what they've been able to do this entire season. They've been mentally tough throughout sections and it's helped push them to this state tournament."
After sweeping their first two matches in section play, the Royals were confident coming into the championship match as the No. 1 seed in the tournament. They knew Simley was ranked second in sections for a reason, but they were determined to keep fighting and win this match.
The first point for Woodbury came from Schurhamer who won 6-0, 6-0 in No. 1 singles and has been one of the most dominant players in the state this season.
"I've played her a few times and just understood what I needed to do to win the match," Schurhamer said. "I just stuck to my strategy and was able to win."
The second point came from Brittany Nguyen in No. 3 singles where she won 6-0, 6-2 and gave the Royals a comfortable lead to start the match.
Simley cut that lead in half with a 6-2, 6-2 win at No. 3 doubles, so Woodbury's lead went to 2-1 with four matches left.
Then, the overall match became more intense with different results happening on all four courts. It looked like Julie Nguyen was in full control of her match at No. 2 singles with a 6-2 first-set win. Then, Thoemke from Simley came out firing to win the second set 6-4.
"I wanted to bring her up to the net in the first set and it allowed me to win," Julie Nguyen said. "Then, I started doing drop shots and lobs in the second set which allowed her to come back into the match. So when the third set started, I knew I had to go back to my old strategy."
She went back to bringing Thoemke back up to the net in third set and continued to find nice shots and placement to earn that fourth point for Woodbury.
Before the fourth point, Woodbury earned a comeback win in No. 1 doubles as Ashley Stroebel and Ashley Nguyen won 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. Simley seemed to be in control after that first-set win, but the Woodbury duo came back to tie up the sets and later win that third set.
The No. 1 doubles win gave the Royals a 3-1 lead in the match before Julie Nguyen finished off the fourth point for Woodbury. Mercill earned the fifth point as she won 6-0, 6-4 in No. 4 singles and Woodbury's No. 2 doubles duo, Anvitha Miryala and Kate McGlinch, fell 4-6, 6-4, 3-6 to make it a 5-2 final score in favor of the Royals.
"This team shows all the different styles and ways of playing a match," Mercill said. "I'm just so happy for all of these girls on the team because they worked so hard this season to reach this goal."
The different styles were shown in the matches played by Schurhamer, Julie Nguyen and Mercill. Schurhamer played very aggressive and found her spots on the court, which resulted in a straight set sweep.
Julie Nguyen was aggressive in the first set, but became more passive in the second set before going back to aggressive play in the third set to win her match.
Mercill was very passive in her straight set win as she had points that would last five minutes. Heath described Mercill as a very patient player and she'll just continue to make you move your feet and run across the court.
Even though it was three different styles, it resulted in an overall win for Woodbury and spot in the state tournament. Now, the girls will focus on competing at the state tournament on Tuesday, Oct. 22, and Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the Baseline Tennis Center on the University of Minnesota campus.
It'll be a new experience for most of the girls on the team, but all of them are excited for the opportunity that lies ahead. Schurhamer, Julie Nguyen and Mercill all agree that Woodbury will probably be the underdogs in their matches, but they don't mind it. They said that they know this team is capable of winning against any team in the tournament as long as they stay mental tough and play their own game.
"This is the first year we actually taste victory," Mercill said. "Not just smell it."