The clock struck 11, and ASU teammates junior Joanna Smith and Kassidy Jump took the court at Ojai, Calif.
One set was all they needed to win. They were competing in the doubles invitational bracket of the Pac-12 championships at the Ojai Valley Tournament. That win was not going to be easy.
They faced juniors Brynn Boren and Zoë Scandalis of USC, two players who were part of separate ranked doubles teams on the ITA rankings.
Smith and Jump had played together for approximately two weeks prior to the tournament, but their chemistry had taken a jump.
“Our chemistry is really, really good,” Smith said. “We complement each other well.”
She said this was through their contrasting play styles. Jump is more of a baseline hitter with huge groundstrokes and powerful hits. Smith is mobile and tends to attacks the net.
Perhaps these differences were why they weren’t put together sooner. In a game of two players, though, the differences ended up helping each other.
They blew through the first three rounds of the tournament. The finals were against the No. 3 seed in the tournament. Jump and Smith were not ranked.
“What Kass and I talked about before going out there was that we were going to have to be the ones to move before they did and basically take control of the match,” Smith said.
They looked to hit big balls and cross the ball often.
The match started by going back and forth — the two teams were matched at 3-all before ASU took a marginal lead at 5-4. They then jumped to 7-4.
“We were just really aggressive,” Jump said.
ASU coach Sheila McInerney emphasized this, and added that they also moved well and set each other up a lot. Additionally, she said their serving was solid.
The USC players were trained to fight, though, and put up a challenge in the next points.
“USC played a really good game at 7-4,” McInerney said.
This cut the deficit to 7-5, but ASU had another chance to put the match away with Smith serving.
“I missed quite a few first serves,” she said.
They lost the point and the deficit was cut to 7-6.
ASU put them away through aggressive play and won the next set, resulting in a victory in the match and tournament.
“We were lights out again,” McInerney said.
Smith and Jump won 8-6.
“They played great,” McInerney said. “Probably the best I’ve seen them play.”
Although they didn’t play enough matches together to be eligible for the individual matches of the NCAA tournament, they could provide a difference in team tournament.
“Confidence-wise, they realize that they just really have to go out and be aggressive and have fun with it,” McInerney said.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Logan_Newsman