The autumn of Summer began in the best fashion possible, and ended with an exhausting yet satisfying conclusion.
Mounds View junior Summer Brills put in overtime Friday en route to the Class 2A tennis singles championship. She did it with a pair of three-set victories, defeating Faith Lee of Andover in the semifinals, then coming back for a 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 victory over upset-minded seventh-grader Sophia Reddy of Edina in the finals.
"I never thought it would take that much," said a weary Brills, who played more than six hours of tennis Friday. "Both of those players are great and tough to beat, but I would have liked to made things a little easier."
For Brills, her final-day feats added validity to a tournament that had practically set up for a victory.
With top-rated Jessie Aney of Rochester Century electing to play doubles, Brills earned the tournament's No. 1 seed. She warmed up for the singles tournament with three difficult matches in the team competition (including a loss to Aney in the quarterfinals), then cruised through the first day of the individuals while watching the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 seeds go down.
"That gave me a boost," Brills said.
Which was needed, because her last two opponents proved far more difficult.
She outlasted Lee, a close friend, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 in the semifinals, then fought through fatigue to hold off Reddy, whose mature play defied her age.
The two were virtually even through the first two sets. Reddy's patience and consistency were the perfect antidote for Brill's aggressive style.
"I just wanted to keep consistent and keep getting the ball back and hope she made a mistake," Reddy said. "I mean, everybody makes mistakes."
Brills found a reserve of energy in the third and deciding set. After winning the first two games, she fought back from a 0-40 deficit to win a key third game and take control of the match.
"I was like 'Please be tired' after her first match, but she seemed to be moving perfectly well," Reddy said. "Summer is a great player."
"I just wanted to win this so much," said Brills, her voice cracking slightly with the weight of the moment. "I've worked so hard to do this. After the last point, I just couldn't believe I had won."Sisters rule in doubles
Aney watched Brills' championship from the stands with sister Katie, basking in the aftermath of their recently won Class 2A doubles championship.
They had defeated Edina's own sister tandem of Morgan and Mackenzi Marinovich 6-4, 6-3. When the match concluded, Jessie and Katie, mouths hanging open in excitement, did what every doubles team does after winning a state championship. They hugged and twirled about the court, reveling in their victory.
"We'd talked about playing together in a kind of joking way since Jessie won singles last year, but a few days before the section playoffs, she came to me and said 'Well, should we do it?' " Katie said. "Obviously, I went for it. I wasn't going to say no."
As the top-ranked singles player in the state, Jessica knew she was making a personal sacrifice. But the chance to play with her sister was too sweet to pass up.
"Winning singles was really fun, but this is what high school tennis is all about: sharing," Jessie said. "This is better than last year because I can share it with my sister."
Katie admitted that her sister's decision to keep it in the family was more than she had hoped for.
"I never even dreamed I would be in a state tournament and now, here I am, winning a championship," said Katie. "And to do it with my sister, there are no words for it. It's indescribable."Class 1A: SPA sweeps
Sonya Das had enjoyed success against Breck's Patty Zhao before. So, despite her loss to Zhao in the Section 4, 1A finals, Das felt good about her chances going into their state championship match.
It showed on the court, where Das, a hard-hitting junior, overwhelmed Zhao in the first set and cruised to a 6-0, 6-3 victory at the Reed-Sweatt Tennis Center in Minneapolis.
"My game is all about confidence," Das said. "I felt pretty confident today."
Das' victory was only half of a triumphant afternoon for St. Paul Academy. On an adjacent court, teammates Sarah Hays and Gina Nguyen defeated Blake's Maddy Hall and Abby Rickeman for the doubles title.
Both matches ended within minutes of each other.
"I'm happy about how I played, but I'm happiest that my teammates won, too," Das said.