CLINTON – A state banner hung from the door that leads to the courts at the River Cities Tennis Association's indoor complex on 4th Ave South in Clinton. The Clinton High School girls' tennis team will have to make room for another.
After an all-day regional affair that drained athletes both mentally and physcially, the River Queens prevailed, ousting Dubuque Hempstead 5-4 in the final round to book a trip to Iowa City for the second consecutive season.
Clinton handedly beat Cedar Rapids Jefferson earlier in the day to book a spot in the finals with Hempstead, who defeated Davenport West in the morning slate.
The River Queens and Hempstead were knotted 3-3 after the singles round with Abby Struble, Mackenzie Lange and Lacy Pickney each earning hard-fought victories, especially Lange, who won the first set 6-4 and held on in a tiebreaker to win the second set 7-6.
Clinton coach Cindy Rasche joked all day that the match would be decided in a super tiebreaker by the No. 3 doubles teams. She was almost right. After Struble and Kaylee Camp lost a No. 1 doubles match, it was up to the duos of Lange and Kylie Housenga and Lacy Pickney and Kallyn Keefer to seal the victory.
They didn't flinch. Lange and Housenga claimed a 6-4, 6-4 win and Pickney-Keefer cemented Clinton's state aspirations by cruising to a 6-1, 6-3 win.
Camp, Struble, Lange and Housenga already claimed state berths for the state doubles and singles tournament later this month. Pickeney and Keefer apparently weren't ready for their season to end quite yet.
The River Queens will take on Round of 16 action on Tuesday. Their opponent is unknown, as the likes of Cedar Rapids Prairie, Iowa City West, Iowa City High and Cedar Rapids Washington will battle for a regional title Monday in Cedar Rapids.
"They held their own destiny in their own hands," Rasche said. "Pickney served well and was on fire after a challenging singles match that she won and Keefer crushed overhead after overhead at the net to bring in the fifth and final win."
Clinton will begin play at the University of Iowa Tennis Courts at 3 p.m. Tuesday.