EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. -- The day had an ominous start, but it ended with Greysen Arns and Blake Hayden showing the confidence needed to take on the best doubles team in the state.
The Quincy High School boys tennis team's No. 1 doubles pairing fell behind 4-0 to the second-seeded duo of O'Fallon's Evan Potter and Gavin in the first set of Saturday's Class 2A sectional semifinal match.
"We just had to execute our shots," Hayden said. "We weren't doing that."
Once they did, the match changed completely. The Blue Devils roared back from a first-set setback, upending the Panthers 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 to reach the championship. They lost 6-0, 6-1 to the top-seeded Edwardsville team of Seth Lipe and Gabo Montanari, but a second-place finish and a spot in the state tournament field made it easy to brush that loss aside.
"They're probably one of the best doubles team I've ever faced," Hayden said.
Arns and Hayden, who qualified for the state tournament as sophomores and went 1-2, will head to the Chicagoland area for the state tournament, which begins Thursday at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights.
"It feels great," Arns said. "Edwardsville is probably one of the toughest sectionals to get out of with so many big teams. To get second here, that's a great feeling."
It took some resolve to make it happen.
The QHS duo swept their first two matches Friday in straight sets, beating a team from Belleville East 6-4, 6-4 and handling a team from Belleville West 6-1, 6-4. The poor start against O'Fallon could have changed everything.
Instead of giving up, they dug in.
"You can't just give up," Arns said. "You can't just let them win that set no matter what the score. That's going to give them confidence. You have to make them hesitate. You have to make them worry about you."
Holding serve throughout the final two sets gave Arns and Hayden the upperhand.
"We felt we were just as good as them, if not better," Hayden said. "We just had to fight."
That wasn't as easy against the uber-talented team from Edwardsville.
"They are really good together," Arns said.
Arns and Hayden will be heading to state alone as the rest of the QHS contingent was eliminated Friday. The doubles team of Drew Figge and Matt Harmann won their first match 6-2, 6-1 against Granite City but lost to Lipe and Montanari 6-0, 6-0.
In the singles draw, Quincy's Zach Willing opened with a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Collinsville's Nathan Weil before suffering a 6-0, 6-1 loss to O'Fallon's Niko Papachrisanthou. The Blue Devils' Caleb Vonderheide lost his opening match 6-3, 6-3 to Edwardsville's Drake Schrieber.