SOUTH ABINGTON TWP. – Nathalie Joanlanne could help but throw her arms in the air in embrace of her teammates.
A tumultuous season that began with her coach suffering a stroke during practice and her mother taking over managerial duties cumulated in an unlikely singles district championship.
Joanlanne fashioned a come-from-behind victory over top-seeded, returning champion Kendra Croker, of Scranton Prep, for an improbable 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory in the District 2 Class 2A girls tennis final round.
Bouncing back came naturally to the Wyoming Seminary sophomore.
"One of my mottos is to fight back," Joanlanne said. "It's written on a pair of shoes that I have. It's on everything. That motto helped me when Coach Mike (Balutanski) went down and it helped me get back up. It told me that it's not the end of the world, and I could bounce back."
For 2 hours and 45 minutes, Joanlanne and Croker matched each other shot for shot, break point for break point.
Joanlanne found herself in a number of potential game-changing situations throughout the match.
Trailing 4-1 in the third set, Joanlanne turned the tables by capturing the final five games.
Deadlocked at four apiece, Joanlanne crawled out of a 15-40 disadvantage to win the match's most crucial -- and longest running -- game. She broke on the next serve to take her first district championship and screamed to the crowd by the sound-proof glass.
"Obviously you weren't down there so you couldn't hear me screaming the whole time," Joanlanne said. "I pumped myself. And when I was down in that third set, I told myself ‘Alright, I've come back from 5-love (in the quarterfinals), why couldn't I come back from 4-1."
Croker handily took the first set after taking the first three games.
Joanlanne's three-game advantage at 5-2 in the second set melted away. Croker battled against five Joanlanne advantages to win her second-straight game, cutting the deficit to one with her serve to go.
The top Wyoming Valley Conference singles player tallied a break point and cracked a smile for the first time all match.
"After the first set, I said there are two more sets," she said. "My mom told me to calm down and said ‘you'll be fine.'"
The Blue Knights' Anita Ghosh challenged Croker in the semifinal. Ghosh was tied with Croker at 5-5 in the first set but eventually fell 7-6, 6-3.
"I think I tensed up a little bit," Ghosh said. "I was going to need more consistency, and I made her miss the ball often. But ultimately, I think I held back too much."
Crestwood's Kristi Bowman dropped her second semifinal matchup to Abington Heights' Allie Persateri 6-2, 6-0. Tyra Abdalla defeated her teammate in the Class 3A district final.
Team Index: AH, Abington Heights; CRE, Crestwood; NP, North Pocono; SEM, Wyoming Seminary; SP, Scranton Prep
District 2 Class 2A Girls Singles
Semifinals: Nathalie Joanlanne (SEM) def. Grace Reilly (SP) 6-0, 6-1; Kendra Croker (SP) def. Anita Ghosh (SEM) 7-6, 6-3
Finals: Joanlanne def. Croker 3-6, 6-4, 6-4
District 2 Class 3A
Semifinals: Allie Persateri (AH) def. Kristi Bowman (CRE) 6-2, 6-0; Tyra Abdalla (AH) def. Lara Perotti (NP) 6-1, 6-0
Finals: Abdalla def. Persateri 6-1, 6-0