SAPPINGTON — It was a nightmare scenario Wednesday afternoon for Kirkwood High senior Grace Klebe.
But she came through with flying colors, lifting the Pioneers to a 5-4 victory at Lindbergh in the Class 2 District 2 girls team tennis championship.
Klebe rallied from a set down to win tiebreakers in the final two sets of the ninth and deciding match, lifting Kirkwood to its first district championship since 2015.
"I don't like pressure," Klebe said. "My dad (Kevin) told me this morning that this was probably going to be the most important sporting event of my life. It was extremely stressful. I saw my teammates, but I really don't remember anything else."
With the dual match tied 4-4, Lindbergh’s Angela McPike won the first set of the deciding No. 5 singles match against Klebe. But Klebe pulled out a 5-7, 7-6 (5), 10-7 victory to send the Pioneers into the Class 2 sectional round.
McPike led 3-1, 5-2 and 6-3 in the 10-point super tiebreaker that was used to decide the third set. But Klebe rallied for six consecutive points and pulled out a 10-7 victory.
"It was a tough tiebreaker," Klebe said. "Neither one of us wanted to make a mistake, so there were some long points. I like a faster pace than that."
Klebe’s victory was one of three for the Pioneers in four singles matches that went to three sets. The third sets all used the 10-point super tiebreaker, in which the first player to 10 points and leading by two won the set and the match.
Sydney Sutter won a three-set match at No. 4 singles for the Pioneers, as did Kaitlyn Callaway at No. 6.
"It came down to my match, but it certainly wasn't me who won this match," Klebe said. "It was a true team win. Sydney was playing next to me and if she didn't win, my match would not have finished."
Kirkwood advanced to face St. Joseph’s on Oct. 19 in the sectional round of the Class 2 state tournament. St. Joseph’s won the Class 2 District 4 title Wednesday with a 5-0 victory against Lafayette.
Lindbergh led Kirkwood 2-1 after doubles by winning the Nos. 1 and 2 positions. Dani Rosenberger and Katya Gamblin won at No. 1, with Lauren Jacobs and Charlotte Lorenz winning the No. 2 spot for the Flyers.
The Pioneers got a vital point as Sutter and Brigid Van Rees won No. 3 doubles.
"I knew they would be very strong at No. 1 and 2 doubles," Kirkwood coach Sam Lhotak said. "We needed to get that win at No. 3. If we could do that, we could rely on our depth, which has been our strength all year.”
That meant the Pioneers needed to win four of the six singles matches, and in essence four of five because of the brilliance of Rosenberger at No. 1.
Lindbergh’s Rosenberger remained undefeated for the season and was the first singles match off the court, winning 6-0, 6-0 over Grace Runge.
Kirkwood’s Anna Carmody won 6-4, 6-1 over Jacobs at No. 2 singles, and Lorenz pulled out a three-set match for Lindbergh at No. 3 singles.
But the Pioneers pulled out the victory by winning more of the extended singles matches, marking the second consecutive day they bounced back despite trailing after doubles. On Tuesday, they rallied to beat Cor Jesu in the semifinals.
"It is unbelievable how these girls came back two days in a row," Lhotak said. "It shows the amount of toughness and determination that these girls have. Five of the seven girls we used today are seniors and they were not ready for their high school careers to end."