JONESBORO -- After Wesleyan's No. 2 doubles team of Zach Taylor and Andrew Dorman lost in the third set to Pace in the region tournament, head coach Brad Dehem told them not to worry.
"Coach told us we were going to beat them when it counted, in the state final," Taylor said.
"That's what happened," Dorman said.
In front of every member of both teams, every coach and every fan, Taylor and Dorman finally took down Pace for the third and decisive point in the Class A state championship match. They are the first Wesleyan boys state title tennis team.
Wesleyan and Pace met twice in the regular season, with Pace winning both matches 3-2. The Wolves knew something needed to change for the third time to be the charm and bring the state title to Wesleyan.
The Chang brothers, Norman and Jeffery, at No. 1 and No. 2 did their jobs, as usual. Both made light work of their opponents, winning in straight sets. Palmer Brasher at No. 3 singles and the pair of Brooks Prettyman and Ryan McClanahan at No. 1 doubles lost in two sets, leaving the decisive point to Taylor and Dorman.
The pair won the first set 7-5, a sign of how tight the match would be. In the second set, with the fan bases gathering, they took a 5-3 lead and were two points away from clinching the match before Pace's No. 2 of duo Joey Kimmel and Marshall Harbin rattled off four straight wins to take the second set 7-5
Things stayed close in the third set. Neither team broke serve until the fifth game when Wesleyan won easily. But the pair dropped the next match, giving back the advantage. Wesleyan broke back to take a 4-3 lead and again took a 5-3 lead before Pace made its charge, winning the next game after a deuce and reminding Wesleyan of its second-set loss.
"It was the same," Dorman said. "It was really tense. I just kept thinking about that trophy."
"It shows a lot of mental fortitude," Dehem said. "They grinded it."
In the final game, Pace went up 40-15, before Dorman and Taylor forced deuce, and on the second one it was Taylor putting the ball away. Even as the ball landed the Wolves players were headed toward the court to celebrate with their teammates.
"All the pressure, in one instant came off," Taylor said.
Leading the celebration was No. 1 singles player and senior Norman Chang. He has been on the team every year, watching firsthand the Wolves come up short.
"It's kind of a relief," Norman Chang said "It was pure happiness that we did this as a team. To run out there with my teammates was amazing."
Wesleyan took its time on the court, each player getting a chance to hold the trophy that Jeffery Chang quickly ran to pick up as soon as the match ended to deliver to his teammates and his brother.
"There is no way we would be here without his leadership," Dehem said. "He gives everybody confidence."