NEWTON — Michelle Fuca wore the frustration on her face Monday.
She and her Manchester Essex girls tennis teammates did not make the near-hourlong trek down to Newton with thoughts of their run through the Div. 3 state tennis tournament coming to an end. Not this soon, not on this day.
Throughout the course of the match with Old Rochester's No. 1, Amy Heacox, Fuca made mocking gestures to herself and asked herself multiple times "are you kidding me?"
It's clear she's as hard on herself as any coach could ever be.
"I do have a mental game going on in my head throughout the match," Fuca said. "I didn't think I played my best today. I was double faulting but I had to think it through. I finally pulled through."
The Hornets No. 1 did indeed pull through, besting Heacox 6-3, 6-4 and helping her Manchester Essex teammates come through with a dramatic 3-2 victory at Newton South High School in the Div. 3 state semi-finals over a squad that was 21-0 heading into Monday. The victory sets up a winner-take-all showdown with Lenox High School at Algonquin Regional High Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.
"I'm so excited, it's a huge accomplishment for our team," the standout freshman Fuca said. "I like the pressure and this whole team likes the pressure."
Fuca gathered with her teammates after her match on a small hill overlooking the courts to witness how the tandem of Rachel Daley and Eliza Rohner would handle the tension. The duo fought off the fatigue of an hour and 55 minute match, coming back with a grinding 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.
"They struggled in the first set but really found their rhythm after they started being more aggressive," head coach Garth McKinney said. "I'm so proud of this entire team, they were so cool under pressure."
Also grabbing a tough victory for the Hornets was the always-reliable Hannah Daley at second singles, who toppled Olivia Offringa 7-5, 6-1.
"Hannah and Michelle are as consistent as they come," McKinney said. "They're both really focused."
Old Rochester's Steph Barrett and Avery Langlois topped Anna Tyler and Molly Carlson 6-0, 6-2 at second doubles while Abby Offringa edged Kendall McCormick 6-3, 6-2.
Manchester Essex is now 17-4 overall heading into Wednesday's state final.