Hannah Brink didn't want to watch from the fence during her final year with the Hilton Head Island High School tennis team.
So the senior went about preparing to etch her standing with the Seahawks last summer, where the school valedictorian took part in USTA's Junior Team Tennis program as well as some additional work with a local women's 3.5 team.
"I just took a lot of lessons and worked really hard," she said.
Her efforts have begun to pay off. After coach Jennifer Weitekamper experimented with "four or five" different doubles combinations through the season's early schedule, she settled on Brink and junior Maggie Flowers handling the job three weeks ago.
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The two have rewarded their coach with some of Hilton Head High's best doubles play in recent memory, which included a 6-2, 6-0 defeat of Hannah Burns and Haley Hunter on Tuesday as the Seahawks opened the Class 3-A playoffs with a 5-1 win over St. James.
"Some maturity and the willingness to forcefully communicate together," Weitekamper said of what she's seen from her new doubles tandem. "I think Hannah realized this is her last year, so she wanted to make sure she's got her year in."
The Seahawks' struggles at No. 2 doubles a year ago never deterred the team en route to a sixth straight state championship, as Weitekamper leaned on a core of veteran singles standouts to lift the group when things got tight. But with a younger roster this season, a stronger doubles tandem has given the coach more peace of mind as Hilton Head High (15-4) guns for a seventh title.
"We were juggling all the way until the end," she said. "We put a lot of pressure on our singles players. I think they're balancing each other out right now. And that's a comfort zone going into the playoffs."
Brink and Flowers were among the first to leave the court Tuesday, joining Kate Cram at No. 2 singles, who downed Jordan Greene 6-0, 6-1. Sarah Wood and Holly Kerr joined shortly thereafter with wins at Nos. 3 and 4, clinching the first-round victory well before Alex Delanowski notched the only triumph of the afternoon for St. James at No. 1. She took out Jen Oliver, 6-2, 6-0.
"We either win it or our season's over," Weitekamper said. "So despite the fact that today happened quickly, it's still the notion of playoffs."
Brink has no plans for her season to end anytime soon. She's having too much fun with her new doubles partner to end it now.
"We always support each other, stay calm and that sort of thing," she said. "For the past couple years, it's been a struggle with our doubles team. It was more of losses than wins.
"But this year we've been able to come out and get some wins."
Hilton Head High 5, St. James 1
Singles -- No. 1 Alex Delanowski (STJ) def. Jen Oliver 6-2, 6-0; No. 2 Kate Cram (HHH) def. Jordan Greene 6-0, 6-1; No. 3 Sarah Wood (HHH) def. Bailee Hunt 6-3, 6-3; No. 4 Holly Kerr (HHH) def. Lexi Cannon 6-1, 6-0; No. 5 Nicole Diaz (HHH) def. Ingram Baker 6-1, 6-2.
Doubles -- No. 2 Hannah Brink/Maggie Flowers (HHH) def. Hannah Burns/Haley Hunter 6-2, 6-0.