Kate Cram approached her first appearance in the playoffs last year like most freshmen do. She was, to say the least, a little bit wide-eyed.
"I was going into it like, 'I have no idea what's going on right now,' " Cram recalled. " 'I'm just here to have fun.' "
But something clicked along the way for the Hilton Head Island High School tennis standout. She went from unknowing youngster to level-headed veteran, due in part to her sweep in the state title at No. 5 singles. She was the first one off the court for the Seahawks, who would go on to capture their fifth consecutive state crown.
"I had no idea how any of it worked or anything," she said, laughing at the memory now. "I was just kind of along for it to see what was happening."
Jumpstarted by her dominance in last season's finale, Cram one-upped her postseason success on Tuesday afternoon, as she turned a 1-4 deficit in the second set into a 7-5 victory. The win at No. 4 singles helped clinch Hilton Head High's 5-1 victory over Berkeley, which catapulted the Seahawks into yet another Lower State final.
"Kate's grown quite a bit, not just in height, but also in maturity," coach Jennifer Weitekamper said. "She's got to keep her head in the game, and she's a good one to talk herself through things. ... Most of the time, she can pull herself up."
Cram and her teammates had to fight through cold and windy conditions to pull out this latest victory. The sophomore earned a 6-1 win in the first set over Jill Funk before having to adjust on the fly in the second set.
"It would start blowing in the middle of a point," she said "Suddenly, instead of hitting a backhand it would be going straight into your body. It's like, 'Oh, this is fun.' "
She wasn't the only one that had to rally against the Seahawks' Region 8-AAA rival, though. Eighth-grader Jennifer Oliver also fought back from a 1-4 deficit at No. 2 singles to earn a 7-5, 6-2 win while Hilton Head High claimed No. 2 doubles after winning in a tiebreak, 6-2, 3-6, 10-3.
"A lot of the girls on our team are very hard hitters, so when the wind is involved, it takes away the hard hitting," said senior Brooke Busby, who earned a 6-2, 6-1 win in No. 1 singles over Kristen Farmer. "You have to slow it down and actually put more spin on it and move your feet more. I don't think a lot of the girls are used to it."
Hilton Head High will try to advance to the state title match this weekend. In the Lower State final Thursday afternoon, the Seahawks will face either Myrtle Beach or Wilson. The Seahawks are naturally expecting another tough battle, but so far, those type of matches have been few and far between.
It's no secret as to why, Weitekamper said.
"The girls are feeling it right now."
Hilton Head High 5, Berkeley 1
Singles -- No. 1 Brooke Busby (HHH) def. Kristen Farmer 6-2, 6-1; No. 2 Jennifer Oliver (HHH) def. Elliott Huxford 7-5, 6-2; No. 3 Logan Danzell (HHH) def. Ann Hayden Huxford 6-0, 6-0; No. 4 Kate Cram (HHH) def. Jill Funk 6-1, 7-5; No. 5 Carolina Lamprecht (B) def. Emma Stanton 6-4, 6-4.
Doubles -- No. 2 Nicole Diaz/Tessa Jansen (HHH) def. Priscilla Washington/Camren Tedder 6-2, 3-6, 10-3.