There's a certain amount of science involved when Hilton Head Island High tennis coach Jennifer Weitekamper settles on a doubles tandem.
No beakers or chemicals are present in the decision-making process, mind you. But just about everything else seems to be.
"I look at the numbers, I look at who's been playing and I look at who's winning," she said. "And I'm not going to lie, I go and check the statistics of the other team and see where we're at."
On Monday, it was Matt Feldman and Phillip Tong's turn to showcase their skills in the first round of the Class 3-A playoffs against Gilbert. The pair didn't disappoint either, affirming Weitekamper's decision by registering a 5-7, 6-4, 10-8 victory that clinched Hilton Head High's 4-2 win.
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"I like the process, because it's not purely statistics," Feldman said. "It's more based on who works the best together."
That chemistry was on display in the closing moments. With Hilton Head High up 3-2, a loss at No. 2 doubles would have set the stage for a winner-take-all showdown at No. 1. That scenario looked likely, too, with Gilbert leading by three points in the tiebreaker.
But Feldman and Tong remained patient and eventually evened things up at eight points apiece before shutting things down from there.
"We kind of hate each other. Our hate drives each other to do better," Tong said, laughing. "Nah, we're good friends. We know how to work together on the court."
Good thing, too. Gilbert trimmed what had been a 3-0 deficit into just a one-match contest after wins in Nos. 1 and 2 singles. Hilton Head High (13-3) captured the first three matches of the afternoon, as Brad Malool took out Tyler Craps at No. 3, 6-0, 6-1, while Ian Schenkel bested Ryan Busby at No. 4, 6-0, 6-2.
Sam Rothwell took advantage of some unforseen playing time at No. 5 with a 6-2, 6-1 triumph over Raylor Dorward. He found himself on the court after two of the Seahawks' regulars -- No. 3 Roman Battistelli and No.5 Mitchell Brockman -- were held out due to illness.
Victories in their absence was a promising sign for Weitekamper.
"For this team, with where we're at, it's very encouraging," she said. "It means they can make it to states. But they've got to get their heads in. The skill is there."
A new doubles team will take the court today, when Hilton Head High hosts Brookland-Cayce at 4 p.m. in the Lower State semifinals. If the Seahawks are still alive afterward, Weitekamper plans on settling on a pair for both the Lower State title and potential state championship matches.
Hilton Head High has home court advantage throughout the postseason heading into Saturday's title match in Columbia.
"It's easier said than done," Weitekamper said. "(They're) teenagers. Do they get along or don't they get along? Are they out there to win? Do they understand each other? ... Can they communicate? Can they get that last point?"
On Monday, her doubles team got that last critical point. She'll find out later today if they can do it again.
Hilton Head High 4, Gilbert 2
Singles -- No. 1: Christian Duncan (G) def. Matt Oliver 6-1, 6-2; No. 2: Joseph Espinoza (G) def. Steven DeVincentis 6-2, 6-5; No. 3: Brad Malool (HHH) def. Tyler Craps 6-0, 6-1; No. 4: Ian Schenkel (HHH) def. Ryan Busby 6-0, 6-2; No. 5: Sam Rothwell (HHH) def. Taylor Dorward 6-2, 6-1
Doubles -- No. 2: Matt Feldman/Phillip Tong (HHH) def. Draw Harmon/Grant Babin 5-7, 6-4, 10-8