WEST CHESTER - Tory Gasho and Brynn Jones have played in big matches over their careers at West Chester Henderson High School.
So why would there be any added pressure this season for the pair of seniors?
Great Valley's Devon Collaro and Dana Hartlein gave the Henderson duo all they could handle in the second set of the No. 2 doubles match on Tuesday, but their experience (and Henderson's) triumphed in the end.
Gasho and Jones defeated Collaro and Hartlein 6-2, 7-5 in straight sets to lead No. 5 W.C. Henderson to a 5-0 win over No. 12 Great Valley in the first round of the District 1 Class AAA playoffs.
The Henderson seniors were not thinking about what was at stake during play. They were just trying to help the Warriors advance in the bracket.
"It was a tough match, but we definitely played our best and were able to pull this one out,' Gasho said. "We're excited to go to the next round.'
Peter Sok was pleased with his young team's effort in the win. The Henderson head coach only had two seniors active for the match.
"The girls did a great job today in pulling out some of the tough matches,' Sok said. "This team is determined to play well. When you have that determination, anything is possible.'
In terms of experience, this was a mismatch. The Warriors (13-2) qualify for the district playoffs annually while the Patriots advanced to the dance for the first time.
Despite the advantage, Great Valley put up a strong fight.
"In the short term, this was a good reward for some hard work by the girls this year,' Great Valley head coach Gerry McGrath said. "Long term, the returning players got a taste of making it to the playoff competition and another opportunity to face high-level players. This gives them something to shoot for next season.'
Brinley Bartlett put up a tough fight against Emma Clark in the No. 1 singles match. Bartlett had Clark moving her feet from one side of the court to the other in an attempt to wear the top Henderson player down. The strategy prevailed, but Bartlett failed to capitalize when she had the opportunity to win points.
Instead, she made some unforced errors that cost her an opportunity to take the match to three sets. Clark won the match 6-3, 6-4.
While inexperience plagued Bartlett in her first district match, Katie Gergel had the reverse effect.
The Henderson sophomore used her district playoff experience to defeat Michelle Oh 6-0, 6-0 in No. 3 singles.
Gergel did not get to face Oh when Henderson and Great Valley played each other 13 days ago, but did not allow the lack of knowledge of her game become a factor.
"I try to stay calm and relax and just think of it as another match,' Gergel said. "I try to treat every match like they're equal so I can play the game.'
The road does not get any easier for the fifth-seeded Warriors from this point. Henderson heads to Wissahickon for their quarterfinal match today and is in unfamiliar territory as the underdog.
Gergel admitted to being nervous for the big match, but knows that will all go away when she steps on the court.
"They're a great team, but you never know what to expect in these matches,' Gergel said. "I'm just going to go out, play my game, and do the best I can.'
Sok believes his team can pull off the upset, but will have to be at the top of their game.
"With the 3-2 format, there's really no leeway,' Sok said. "If we go out and play the way we're capable of playing, it's going to be a win-win situation.'
On the other side of the court, Great Valley (12-4) is seeking to improve on its best season in years. Collaro and Hartlein have seen the improvements the program has made since their freshman year and think the future is bright.
"We have a lot of great players left even with losing a lot of good seniors,' Hartlein said. "The team has a lot of potential, especially with our young singles players.'
"There are still teams on JV that fought for spots this year in doubles that can definitely grow and have the potential to keep this team rolling,' Collaro said. "With our top singles players staying, it's a great way to keep the team going.'
W.C. Henderson 5, Great Valley 0
1. Clark (WCH) def. Bartlett 6-3, 6-4; 2. Couderc (WCH) def. Powers 6-2, 6-0; 3. Gergel (WCH) def. Oh 6-0, 6-0.
1. Baxter-Rodgers (WCH) def. Zeng-Heyde 6-1, 6-3; 2. Gasho-Jones (WCH) def. Collaro-Hartlein 6-2, 7-5.