Gainesville, Florida, U.S.A : All season, Gainesville High senior Preetika Pai battled a seriously injured right wrist while helping the girl’s tennis team to wins. Friday, a second injury halted the Hurricanes hopes of playing for a state title.
A cramp in Pai’s right leg kept her from continuing a match against Ponte Vedra Beach Nease’s Danielle Agraviador. With the team down 2-1, Gainesville had to forfeit the match, ending its season with a 4-1 loss in the 3A Regional Finals.
“I’m very, very proud of this group of girls,” said GHS coach Cathy Lewis “They came out and they toughed it out. They wanted to make a statement and I think they did.”
Pai took the court after a 6-1, 6-0 victory by the team’s No. 1 player, Tavenner Black, and losses by No. 2 Katie Olson (6-2, 6-1 to Alex Corbett) and No. 3 Allison Chasteen (6-3, 6-0 to Abby Heiar). Pai split the first two sets, 6-4, 4-6 with Agraviador before feeling a twinge in her leg at the end of the second.
During the 10-minute break before the third set, she rehydrated, ate a banana and lightly jogged. After winning the first game of the third set, the cramp forced her retire. She eventually needed to be carried off the court, unable to put weight on the leg.
“It started very gradual,” said Pai, who was on crutches, still unable to lay her foot flat on the ground, several hours after the match. “Little-by-little I could feel my calf muscle tensing up as each game went on. I tried to bounce around to keep from cramping up. I knew the match was in my hands, but I just couldn’t do it. It felt really bad to give up so easily."
With a Nease victory already decided, Melissa Sheldon, Gainesville’s No. 5, finished with a 6-1, 6-0 loss to Diana Berlin to end the day.
“Even though it ended on a sad note, I really felt like everybody tried their best,” said Black, who is joining the Gardner Webb University tennis team next season. “Preetika showed just how tough she is. We all didn’t want to give up. We tried our very best and I think that’s what really counts.”