For the last four tennis matches, Stephanie Chard's mom has packed her a brown paper sack meant to energize and refuel her.
It contained the usual Gatorade and Powerbars and the unusual a note.
"It was a motivational note," her mom, Nedra Chard, explained after her daughter won the first singles state title for Rowland Hall by defeating Waterford's Liz Calder 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (8-6) Saturday at Liberty Park.
"Parents can't coach their kids, so instead of trying to talk to her, I've been writing the notes. They're just points about mental toughness."
Her daughter was the picture of mental toughness as she rallied from behind in all but one of her sets Saturday to claim her first singles title and her second as a tennis player for Rowland Hall-St. Mark's. She won a doubles title as a freshman for the school, which earned a state title Saturday by winning all but one individual title in the 2A tournament.
The most exciting of Chard's matches was the one that earned her the state title, but she didn't let on how much it meant to her until the final point was earned.
"She's one of these children who is calm on the outside," her mom said. "She never loses her cool. . . . She's very emotionally controlled."
Stephanie Chard was down in the first set 5-3 when she rallied back to tie up the set and force the tie-break. She was down 0-3 in the second set when she began to chip away at Calder's lead until the two were again locked in a struggle for each point.
It's the third time the two players have met this season, and Chard has won all three match-ups. Chard said she found her motivation in her friendship with her mother, the frustrations she experienced last year and a promise from her coach.
"Last year I hurt my Achilles tendon so I didn't get to play very much until state," she said in between hugs from well-wishers. "It was frustrating. I just didn't have a lot of practice coming into the tournament."
So she gave it some thought in the off-season while she swam and played water polo and then made a decision.
"I just told my mom that I felt like it was something I could accomplish if I put in the time," Chard said.
So she spent several hours each day during the summer playing tennis and even went to an out-of-state tennis camp.
The work paid off as she helped the Winged Lions to the 2A title.
"This is really cool that we've done this," she said grinning. "Maybe we'll wear our uniforms to school on Monday."
She knows one person who will be wearing the Rowland Hall lime-green tank top and low-rise, ruffle-bottom skirt head coach Tim Sleeper.
"The last time we took state three years ago, I told them the same thing; that I'd go in and announce they'd won the title in one of the uniforms," he said smiling and shaking his head. "So I'll be up on stage Monday in a nice, green, dainty women's tennis uniform. I'm not too thrilled about it."
His players, however, were giddy about it, and it was the topic after each girl finished her match.
"That's a pretty good incentive," Chard said, laughing.
Despite facing a humiliating moment on Monday, Sleeper said he couldn't be happier for his team, especially Chard.
"I don't know how she does it," he said of coming from behind so often. "I'm really proud of her. She's really developed a lot in her game, and she's a lot smarter than she was last year."
Rowland Hall's second singles Blake Harries defeated Tina Haroutunian of Waterford 7-5, 6-3 for her first title. Waterford's third singles player, Larissa Beck, defeated Rowland Hall's Mallory Rosenthal 6-3, 6-3 for the only title that didn't belong to the Winged Lions.
Sophie Ashton and Abby Bossart defeated Manti's Jillanne Mackey and Amber Cox 6-2, 6-1 in first doubles, while Jessica Grey and Sydney Hartsell defeated Alisa Barton and Jessica Starr of Richfield 6-3, 7-5 in second doubles.
Winning four of five of the finals is made more sweet for Sleeper when he considers that he has no seniors on this year's squad.
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