One brief, simple hug erased three years of heartbreak for twin sisters Nicole and Kristen Santero on Saturday.
The Silverado seniors, who made their fourth trip to the girls doubles state championship match, finally got the win they desperately wanted.
The Santeros rallied from an early deficit to defeat Liberty's Valerie Nesenhoener and Ashley Wao-Udin 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 at Darling Tennis Center and claim their first state title.
"I'm about to cry," Nicole Santero said. "I can't even explain this. We always felt like it would happen, and it finally did."
The Sunrise Region champions had been snakebitten in their previous three trips to the finals, losing to a different team each year, and early in Saturday's final, it appeared that the opportunity to finally win again might slip away.
The No. 3 seeds from the Sunrise Region, Nesenhoener and Wao-Udin dictated play in the opening set en route to taking the lead.
"We just had to pump ourselves up more after the first set," Kristen Santero said.
The Santeros rebounded to claim the second set and took a 4-1 lead in the third.
The teams exchanged games with Kristen Santero holding her serve for a 5-2 lead. An unforced error on an approach shot by the Liberty team gave the Santeros a match point on Liberty's serve.
When a double fault ended the match, the sisters briefly hugged and smiled. Mission accomplished.
In the girls singles final, Durango junior Alexis Garrett, who earlier in the day treated spectators to a lesson in compassion and sportsmanship, won the title when Spring Valley junior Tiffany Tavares retired in the third set due to leg cramps.
"No one wants to win that way," Garrett said, looking almost apologetic as she left the court. "It's a little bittersweet."
And it might not even be what most remember about her championship day.
In a semifinal match earlier Saturday against defending state champion Rebecca Breland of Canyon Springs, Garrett bent the rules a bit to allow Breland to continue playing when the match was tied at 3-3 in the third set.
Breland, a junior, fought severe leg cramps in her calves and thighs and sought medical attention in the third set. The medical timeout lasted beyond the allotted time in the rules, and Garrett should have been awarded a victory.
Garrett didn't want to win by a technicality, though. She played out the match and won, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
"It was the right thing to do," Garrett said. "Rebecca is such a great competitor. She deserved the chance to keep playing. It means something to beat her, and if I was going to do it, I wanted it to be on the court."
Garrett fought back from one-set deficits in each match to win. Her semifinal match against Breland lasted nearly three hours. Tavares' semifinal win over Bishop Gorman's Anita Lee took even longer and appeared to lead to Tavares' medical issues in the final.
Palo Verde senior Dillon Casey and junior Zach Bellon added a boys doubles title to the team title they helped the Panthers win Friday, beating Coronado's Marc Feldman and Michael Seitz 6-3, 6-2 in the final.
"Two rings, baby, that's what it means," Casey said.
In the boys singles final, Douglas' James Ten Broeck defeated Bishop Gorman's Kyle Del Rosario, 6-4, 7-6 (5).