In the end, all of the drama that transpires in a three-set championship match paid off with the best kind of tears rolling down the faces of Alexsia Drulias and Jackie Sala.
The Garces duo repeated Saturday afternoon on their home courts with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 victory over Mercedes Garcia and Ashley Cardot of Clovis North for the Central Section girls tennis doubles championship.
It’s the second consecutive title for these two and the third for Drulias. She teamed up with her sister, Anastasia (who was in attendance Saturday) for the 2016 doubles title.
The emotion of the title got the best of both players knowing the magnitude of repeating as section champions.
“It’s a huge moment for me. This is my last time playing on these courts,” Drulias said. “And to play with Jackie – to win with Jackie – it means so much to me.”
Drulias and Sala went up 2-1 in the second set, but Cardot and Garcia rallied to score the five final points to force the third set tie-breaker.
“We put in the time. My mom got me up at six in the morning,” Sala said. “It just feels so good winning when you put your heart and soul into it.”
These two didn’t play doubles matches during the regular season as the Rams didn’t have a competitive doubles match in league play or the first two rounds of the Central Section Division I playoffs. Garces (20-3) has secured wins in singles play during a current 14-match win streak as a team.
So Drulias and Sala did not begin playing doubles this fall until the start of the Southwest Yosemite League tournament two weeks ago.
“We had to scramble and find time at the end,” Drulias said. “It paid off.”
With the title on the line and Sala on the serve with a 5-4 lead in the third, the Rams did not yield a point and embraced each other before the tears began to fall.
“The advantage we have is we are so close,” Sala said. “In (the offseason), we are still best friends. We’ve known each other since sixth grade. That’s what other opponents don’t have.”
Garces, the No. 2 seed in the D-I playoffs, will play at No. 1 Clovis North on Tuesday at 3 p.m. as the Rams seek the first section title in eight years.
“We are going to put everything we have out there,” Drulias said.