Half Hollow Hills East's girls tennis team found itself in an unfamiliar situation Wednesday.
After a season of domination, the top-seeded Thunderbirds trailed their rivals, Hills West, in the Suffolk championship match.
But even though it faced a rare challenge, wins at second doubles by Rebecca Stern and Natalie Haebich and at third singles by Brynn April brought East back from a 3-2 deficit to clinch its second straight Suffolk title, 4-3.
"This was our goal," Hills East coach Tom Depelteau said. "We set our goal to repeat as county champions, and it was difficult re-motivating the girls after two weeks off because of the storm, but they stepped up today and they did a nice job."
At second doubles, Stern and Haebich beat the Hills West pair of Mina Sarcevic and Hailey Ozswath, 6-3, 7-6 (2). Stern and Haebich trailed 6-5 in the second set, but erased that deficit and pulled away in the tiebreaker to tie the match at 3.
"I think it's fair to say they didn't seem nervous about it," Depelteau said. " just got down to business and then in the tiebreaker they put some space between them and their opponents."
The match then came down to third singles with both teams watching intensely as April, a freshman, beat Nikaylah Williams 6-3, 6-2. April's teammates carried her off the court after the championship-clinching point.
"She really has a future," Depelteau said. "She's very competitive and although she's pretty tiny and doesn't hit a big ball, it always comes back to the frustration of her opponents. She runs everything down and the other girl has to beat her, she never beats herself."
Hills West went ahead on wins at first singles with Zenat Rashidzada besting Vanessa Scott, 6-4, 6-2; at fourth singles, where Danah Han beat Gabrielle Raziel, 6-2, 6-2, and at first doubles with Sarah Han and Dani Silber beating Amanda Luper and Emily Spevack 6-1, 6-1.
Hills East got wins at second singles, when Allison Huber beat Lauren Salzano, 6-1, 6-1, and at third doubles, where Aikta Rajput and Melissa Achenbaum beat Rachel Tucker and Mary Chagin. 6-3, 6-3.