A season ago the Western Albemarle girls tennis team was a fresh face in the VHSL Group AA state semifinals. The Warriors fought hard but ultimately fell in their final four matchup with Spotswood.
This time around, Western leaned on the lessons learned in 2012 to beat EC Glass, 5-2, in Friday's semifinal at the Virginia Tech Tennis Center.
The Warriors will now face Jamestown Saturday with the state title on the line.
"We just wanted this really badly," junior Emily Kochard said. "We were all really motivated and dedicated to win."
Western fell behind early as Glass' Ruby Hutchison beat Lauren Kearns in straight sets to give the Hilltoppers a 1-0 advantage.
Kochard, the Group AA singles runner-up, quickly tied the score with a decisive straight set win of her own.
Paige Riley's win over Maddy Ix at No. 2 put Glass up 2-1, but that's the last time the Hilltoppers would lead.
Senior Fran Clifton tied the match 2-2 with a straight-set win at No. 5 and Stephanie Barton followed with a win at No. 6 to put Western ahead 3-2.
Claire Park and Glenna Straw put on a thrilling, three-set match that had to be decided by a tiebreak. Park won the first set, only to see Straw win the second. The two then slugged it out in the third before the Western senior won the tiebreak and put her team on the edge of victory.
"Claire winning in a third-set tiebreak was absolutely huge for us," Western coach Ellen Markowitz said.
"I won the first (set) pretty easy but then she caught on to what I was doing (in the second)," Park explained. "I knew I just had to focus and get it done."
With a spot in the finals on the horizon, the No. 1 doubles team of Kochard and Ix took care of business, winning in straights to put Western in its first championship match.
"This is just amazing," Markoqitz said after the match. "I'm getting choked up just talking about it. I'm so happy for the girls. They fought so hard and left everything they had out there."