All that was riding on Serim Jin's Metro League district championship match with Jesuit freshman upstart Farida Abdelmoneum was a chance to end the Crusaders' clutch on the conference, a shot at sending Sunset home with a district title and the opportunity to personally put last year's injury-riddled campaign firmly in the past.
No pressure, right?
Strip away the outside strands of circumstances and just focus on the square-off with Abdelmoneum and Jin was facing a huge test against the left-handed power hitter who fits the mold of some of Jesuit's past greats. Factor in the importance of one single match and its long-term upshot and it's enough to make even the more mentally sturdy players fold up.
Yet, with so much pertinence hanging in the balance, the unflappable Jin was in her element. The right-hander stuck to her game and didn't try to be somebody she's not.
And while the Jesuit underclassman flashed moments of brilliance, it was Jin's poise that played the biggest role in the postseason pressure cooker. Playing her style and her own pace, Jin pulled off a 6-2, 6-3 win over Abdelmoneum to not only clinch the singles' crown, but also lock up the team title as well on Saturday at Tualatin Hills Tennis Center.
"It's nice that we won as a team, not just me," Jin said. "I'm really glad I was a part of the team, a part of Sunset. We're all a big family. It's nice to be a part of a team that cares about each other. We all have love for each other, so that's great."
Jin's teammates shouldered the load early on as doubles partners sophomore Phoebe Wu and freshman Yara Chehab advanced to the Metro final match. Their opponents? None other than Sunset senior Lorissa Yuen and Apollo junior Kirsten Auble, setting up an all purple-and-white outfitted final.
"We all worked really hard to get here," Wu said. "I think the key was just having fun with each other. If we stayed too tight, then it wouldn't have worked out. But everyone was here supporting everyone else. To have that unity together really helped."
Wu and Chehab were able to bounce their teammates in the final. And though both sides were friendly and cordial, Wu wouldn't let her team lose.
"I was still really aggressive at the net, I still wanted to win districts even though it was against a Sunset team," Wu said. "Both teams played well."
It's been years since any program in the Beaverton area has been capable of supplanting the Crusaders from their perch as the Metro's best. When Lincoln was part of the district, the Cardinals often went toe-to-toe with Jesuit, but rarely did a local school ever pull off the improbable.
"Knocking off Jesuit is the best part," Jin said with a smile. "It was really painful when we lost to them by a set in the regular season. But to get that sweet revenge, not just for me, but the other girls as well. It's nice to hear Sunset is on top and Jesuit is second. It feels kind of weird saying it, too."
Sunset head coach Bryan Lurie said the Apollos were capable of capitalizing on the big-money heist after the Apollos lost by one set to the Crusaders during the regular season. His confidence has seemed to permeate throughout the squad.
"I think this is Sunset's year," Jin said.
Abdelmoneum was all power, all the time, against Jin. So, the Sunset star used that to her advantage and put the Crusader in positions on the court where her strength could be used against her. Jin played the net like a seasoned veteran and mixed up her array of shots from short-to-long from spinning-to-speedy that put the onus on Abdelmoneum to respond.
"I was staying in the point and waiting for (Abdelmoneum) to miss because she's kind of inconsistent at times," Jin said. "I just waited for that moment."
Such a critical turning point arose in the second set when Jin broke Abdelmoneum's serve. At that point, Jin was in control of the match's outcome with the momentum on her side.
"I was able to stay mentally stable," Jin said. "It's really hard when in you're in something tight like that. But, being able to calm down and just stay in the game really helped. I think I was able to stay mentally stronger than her this time."
Jin said she was fighting through painful back and quad injuries that limited her mobility and sapped her strength, In the face of adversity and fatigue, a year after losing the district final to Jesuit's Bess Waldram, the sophomore simply had winning on her mind.
"I didn't think about anything, I just wanted to try my best and win the championship for the team," Jin said. "I knew I had the chance, so I got up and took it. I played my best tennis."
Despite the loss, Abdelmoneum still qualified for state. She'll be joined by Westview sophomore Amelia Vu and Jesuit freshman Nicole Hopman in the singles bracket. Jesuit's two top doubles teams will get another shot at Sunset on the state stage. Senior Danielle Larner and Virginia Larner are the state's seventh seed, while junior Josie Donlon and senior Jules Symmonds are the 6A's fifth seed. The 6A state tournament is May 18-20 at THTC.