ELKHART — Keegan Thursby has now been a part of three straight Concord girls tennis regional championship teams.
But she left little doubt about which was her favorite after the Minutemen topped Northern Lakes Conference rival NorthWood, 4-1 Wednesday in the championship match at Elkhart Central.
"There is no doubt it's this one,'' Thursby said after the match. "Being a senior, I know every match could be my last, so I want to come out and really play hard and aggressive to try and keep playing as long as we can.''
Thursby and her No. 1 doubles partner Lauren Pollock weren't on the courts long Wednesday, as the duo posted a 6-0, 6-0 victory over NorthWood's Lauren Mikel and Riley Graber.
"That's the first time we've done that all season,'' Thursby said of the 0 and 0 win. "I thought we really played well.''
"Keegan is just such a great athlete ... I've never had an athlete like her,'' Concord coach Jan Soward admitted. "She and Lauren are really playing well for us now and I thought they set the tone for us tonight.''
The Minutemen move on to the Homestead Semistate on Saturday, where they'll face Delta, a 4-1 winner over Marion on Wednesday. The match is set for 10 a.m. Delta edged Concord 3-2 in the semistate in 2018.
"Three in a row, how about that,'' Soward said. "I am so proud of these girls to come out and play so well against a really good NorthWood team. We knew they'd come to play, so we had to match their intensity.''
The Minutemen jumped on NorthWood early, winning the first set on four of the five courts to get the Panthers on their heels early.
But while Thursby and Pollock were able to put their opponents away early, the Panthers were able to fight back and battled Concord to the end.
"I think when you get down early and you look around and you're teammates are struggling too, it can be tough to overcome mentally,'' NorthWood coach Tiff Schwartz said. "But give our girls credit for really battling through and fighting. Concord was the Northern Lakes Conference champion for a reason ... they're very good. But I thought our girls played well tonight too.''
After posting a 6-0 win in the first set, Concord's Meaghan Godzisz was pushed in the second set before beating NorthWood's Alex Jesse, 6-0 and 6-3.
"I need to remind Meghan sometimes that she needs to keep pushing in a match,'' Soward admitted. "She has really good skills, but there are times where I need to tell her about setting up an opponent for points.''
After NorthWood's Gretchen Adams topped Lauren Boessler at 3 singles, 6-0, 6-4, Concord's Regan Landis would clinch the match for the Minutemen, beating Reegan Miller, 6-2, 6-1 in a tough match featuring good friends.
"She just does so many things well,'' Soward said of Landis. "She does the little things, like setting up an opponent and hitting shots into the corners ... things some fans wouldn't pick-up. But opposing coaches know how good she is and how consistent she's been for us this season.''
"Those two don't really have any secrets when they play each other,'' Schwartz said. "It's tough when you play each other so often, but I think all three times they played this year, it's been the same kind of match. Regan is just a very good player.''
The longest and best match of the night came at No. 2 doubles, where NorthWood's Caroline Mullet and Kate Stillson put on a huge rally to force a third set, before falling to Concord's Kelsee O'Dell and Kaylee Price 6-3, 5-7 and 6-3.
It looked like O'Dell and Price would win the match easily, as they led 5-1 in the second set. But Mullett and Stillson got the momentum and the fire going, winning the next six games to force the third set.
"That was really great to see them fight back like that,'' Schwartz said. "They played their hearts out in that second set and came all the way back.''
Facing Delta in Saturday's Semistate, Soward knows it will be another tough test if the Minutemen are to make it to the state finals.
"We'll need to win at 1 singles and 1 doubles and of course those are the toughest ones to win,'' Soward said. "But a number of our girls have been at semistate before, so hopefully that will help us on Saturday.''
CONCORD 4, NORTHWOOD 1
SINGLES: Regan Landis (C) def. Reegan Miller 6-2, 6-1. Meaghan Godzisz (C) def. Alex Jesse 6-0, 6-3. Gretchen Adams (NW) def. Lauren Boessler 6-0, 6-4.
DOUBLES: Keegan Thursby/Lauren Pollock (C) def. Lauren Mikel/Riley Graber 6-0, 6-0. Kelsee O'Dell/Kaylee Price def/ Kate Stillson/Caroline Mullett 6-3, 5-7, 6-3.