Lily Gregory was never a runner.
Cross country wasn’t going to be her fall sport.
However, she survived her own version of a marathon.
The Mattoon High School junior survived the first day of the state tournament with a final 11-9 set to claim her third victory of the day and allow her to advance to the second day of competition.
Gregory finished the day 3-1 with one win in the singles championship round and two wins in the singles consolation bracket.
“It’s a good experience for me,” said Gregory. “All of the girls I have played against were seniors and have been to state before. I’ve learned a lot, and I think this is going to help me for the future and any girls that make it to state next year.”
Gregory crushed her opening-round opponent. She took the first set 6-0 against Emma Cushing of Ottawa Township. Cushing battled back to make the second set much closer, but Gregory held her off for a 7-5 win.
“She started playing better in the second set,” said Gregory. “I tried sticking to my game and moving her all over the court. I started to get a little nervous but I just stayed focused and remained relaxed.”
Gregory picked up her first loss in the second round against the No. 6 ranked player in the state, Savannah Webb of Richmond-Burton, 6-0, 6-0.
Webb, who has not lost a set this year, went on to win three sets to reach the state quarterfinals.
“Her serves had so much spin on them,” said Gregory. “I think it was good for me to play someone like that who is better. It gives me a chance to see what others can do.”
In the consolation bracket, Gregory defeated Gianna Cox of New Lenox Providence Catholic, 6-0, 6-3.
The match of the night came in the third round of the consolation bracket against Paige Mathias of Waterloo. After losing the first set 7-5, Gregory battled back to take the second set 6-3.
That set up a loser-goes-home final set that was a straight-up marathon. Gregory managed to hold off Mathias 11-9 to move onto the fourth round and become the first Wave tennis player to teach Day 2 in recent years.
“It was such a long match,” said Gregory. “There were over 25 hits back and forth. I just had to stay patient and stick to my game. It got to a point where I just tried to keep it in play, and she was trying to do the same. You just have to take one point at a time.”
That sets up a fourth-round match against Shikha Agarwell of Dunlap, who went 2-1 on the first day. The winner of this match will move onto the fifth round, while the loser will be eliminated.
“I play on doing my best and trying to win,” said Gregory.
All matches will be played at Rolling Meadows courts.