BLOOMINGTON — It was a matter of battling the wind and beating the rain for Big 12 Conference girls' tennis players competing at sites around the Twin Cities in the conference tournament Saturday.
Normal Community's Madison Vail, Grace Walls and Annika Hiredesai emerged as singles champions before the rain prevailed late in the meet. The remainder of the matches were suspended until 10 a.m. Monday.
Vail overcame the wind and Danville's Erin Houpt to claim the No. 3 singles crown at BHS.
It was the third time she had defeated Houpt in the past week with familiarity breeding respect rather than contempt.
"We've played a lot and we've had a good match every time," Vail said. "She hits a lot of the balls back at you and she makes you work a lot and work through the points."
Vail was taken to the wire in the opening set before scoring a 7-5 win. She claimed the second by a 6-2 margin.
"I started out a little slow and the first set was really close, but I came back and figured it out and started hitting some winners, hitting some good shots," she said.
Vail spent most of the day trying to figure out the wind as much as her opponents.
"My first two matches were at Maxwell Park and it's super windy there," she said. "It makes things a lot harder and a lot more challenging."
Vail found putting a lot of topspin on the ball to be an advantage in hitting with the wind at her back.
"Against the wind, you can really drive it and hit it harder," she explained.
Vail found her serve to be an effective weapon in the title match.
"Especially with the wind," she said.
Walls, a sophomore, grabbed her second straight Big 12 singles crown with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Destiny Jackson of Normal West in the No. 4 bracket.
For her, it was a matter of beating the rain that began falling in the closing stages of her championship match at NCHS.
"It definitely motivated me to finish things up and get it over with," said Walls, who was a state qualifier a year ago.
Hiredesai scored a 6-2, 6-1 victory in her title match at Evergreen Racquet Club to give the Iron their third singles title.
Two other NCHS players will complete their title matches on Monday when the tournament resumes.
No. 2 Kavya Sudhir will face Bloomington's Kelsie Ayers, while No. 6 Ayushi Shah will face Olivia Falls of BHS.
The Iron also captured a doubles title earlier in the tourney with the No. 2 team of Vail and Walls teaming up to defeat Normal West's Ariel Miller and Emma Boitnott.
West turned the tables on NCHS in No. 3 doubles, with Jackson and Georgia Kreckman edging the Iron's Hiredesai and Hannah Shim for that crown.
The team title will be awarded following the completion of Monday's matches with NCHS in the driver's seat to win.