New Haven — Early in the Class M state girls' tennis championship match on Friday, East Lyme already found itself in trouble.
The top-seeded Vikings quickly dropped two matches.
"I don't know if they're so nervous, or not," coach Laurie Privett said at the time.
Nerves, and inexperience, played a role in East Lyme suffering a 7-0 loss to No. 2 Daniel Hand at Yale University.
Playing with four freshmen in the starting lineup, the previously unbeaten Vikings (18-1) dropped all but one match in straight sets. They won only three games in doubles action.
East Lyme was making its first state championship appearance since 2007. Hand finished 19-1.
"I'm a little disappointed," Privett said. "I knew they were going to be a tough team. They may play a little tougher competition than we do during the year.
"When you get up to this level, it becomes a little bit of a shock. I'd like to think that nobody gave up."
In the final match of the day, East Lyme freshman Sherry Yang kept battling at No. 3 singles, pushing her opponent, Melissa Parker, to a third set before losing, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
Freshman Melinda Li played a competitive No. 4 singles match, losing 7-5, 6-2, to sophomore Megan Sosensky.
At No. 1 singles, junior Joan Li had a respectable showing against Taylor Fay, the No. 3X seed in the State Open singles tournament, losing 6-3, 6-0.
"I'm actually really proud," Joan Li said. "It's been exciting. This is my first time here as a team, so it's fun. ... I was hoping that we'd have a closer match."
East Lyme went home with a consolation prize.
The young Vikings gained valuable experience during their postseason run.
They'll be better prepared for their next trip to the finals. Yes, they plan to be back again.
"Experience is a great teacher," Privett said. "It's a big stage here. They felt the pressure of their teammates, too. They didn't want to let anybody down.
"The only way to get better at that is to have it happen to you a lot, have these pressure situations over and over again and it doesn't become so scary any more. So we will learn."
Joan Li echoed her coach's sentiments.
"We still have a chance next year, so this is really just only the beginning," Li said.
The Vikings finished 18-1. Seniors Liz Miller, Sagune Sakya and Samantha Hart all saw doubles action while playing in their last team match on Friday.