The answer was simple. She reacted like a champion.
Vines, an Elizabethton sophomore, lost her first games of the season Friday in the Class A/AA state championship match against Skyler McDonald of Fayetteville. Still, Vines stayed in control taking a 6-1, 6-1 decision for the girls’ singles title at Old Fort Park.
“I had to play really well to beat her,” Vines said. “She fights to the end and she knows I was so tight and so nervous. She was going to make me take it from her.”
Take it from McDonald is what Vines did.
There weren’t many service aces or easy points. Most of the scoring came after long rallies of hard-hit balls. The tough action sparked Vines to show stronger emotion than she had at any other point of the season.
McDonald battled every bit like one would expect from a two-time defending state champion. She was down 4-1 in the first set and actually was within a point at 40-15 of making it 4-2 before Vines stormed back to take the game.
“I just told myself if I could get the next three points, that would make her really frustrated,” Vines said. “I just told myself to focus, play my game and try to move her from side-to-side where I would force her to make an error.”
McDonald was certainly frustrated after the strategy, but she still had fight left in her.
Down 5-0 in the second set with Vines serving to end the match, McDonald won one game. At match point in the next game, she won two points before Vines was able to it out.
“All of her shots are really good and she doesn’t have any weaknesses,” McDonald said about Vines. “She just tries to intimidate you and she did really good this match. She is the best person I’ve played all year.”
For the first time during the high school season, the nationally-ranked Vines brought her full arsenal to the court. It was particularly noticable with her fast serves. She had played McDonald before and knew it was a dangerous opponent whom she faced.
“I was really nervous going into the match,” Vines said. “That showed a little bit, especially in the beginning. I just calmed down and played my game, and told myself I had to play the way I normally play. If I tried to play different, I knew I would lose. I told myself it’s just another match and just go play.”
However, Vines later admitted it wasn’t just another match. While she has played in numerous tournament matches including many finals, none of them were for a TSSAA state title. Vines was representing her high school with a chance to be recognized as a state champion by the hometown community.
“It’s just an honor,” Vines said. “I’m so happy I got to win the state title for my school and to be able to show what Elizabethton is made of.”