Even in the face of a seemingly insurmountable deficit, Caroline MacDonald loosened up, took comfort in her underdog status and pulled off the improbable comeback to move into the quarterfinals at the Class 5A state tournament.
In regards to Colorado Springs players, she stood alone in that feat Thursday.
On a day where rain stopped the completion of six first-round matches, not to mention the conclusion of all of the quarterfinals matches, Liberty's No. 3 singles player was able to squeeze in the only win of the day for area schools after she rebounded from trailing 4-0 in the third set to Grand Junction-Central's Hannah Keeling to pull off the round-one upset 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-4.
"I had nothing to lose out there. Nothing," a hard-breathing MacDonald said after the 2?-hour match. "I know everybody probably thought I was going to lose, so I just went in and gave it my all. This was everything I'd been working for."
The Lancers senior wasn't perfect on the day. She had more unforced errors than she'd care to remember, didn't always have pinpoint accuracy with her serves and her footwork wasn't always up to her standards.
But by the end, she'd punctuated it with the best performance of her career.
After her first win of the third set, to make the deficit 4-1, MacDonald called for time and walked over to the chain-linked fence at Gates Tennis Center to talk with her coach, Ernie Zamora.
The strategy was simple, because the first thing the Liberty coach did was point at the court.
"I pointed at the court and told her, 'It's yours, go get this.' I said, 'lean into your shots and go get this,'" Zamora said. "Then she turned back to me and said, 'You're right, coach. I've got nothing to lose. I am going to make this a moment to remember.'"
For the remaining games, MacDonald looked as seasoned as any player - despite this being her first time at the state tournament - and kept her opposition off balance with a series of crosscourt shots.
Keeling couldn't keep up.
MacDonald dropped the match-clinching shot a few feet over the net and just out of the reach of Keeling to move into the quarterfinals against Ponderosa's Claire Cox when play resumes on Friday morning.
"Same thing goes, I'll just put it out on the line and see what happens," MacDonald said. "I didn't have any goals coming in except play the best I can."