Sarah Hauenstein figured she was due to win a girls golf playoff.
"I've never won in a playoff," the Wheaton Warrenville South senior said. "I've been in like five playoffs, but to win one for the first time is awesome. And the team winning, everything about it made it so much better."
Tied with Glenbard West's Samantha Moody with a 3-over-par 75 after 18 holes at Wednesday's Class 2A Nazareth regional at Links of Carillon, Hauenstein birdied the playoff hole. That was one shot better than Moody, winning Hauenstein medalist honors and a boost in confidence.
"It was really nerve-wracking," Hauenstein added. "I didn't hit an amazing first drive, kind of pulled it, so I thought I was in the water, but I ended up being just short of it. I hit a pretty decent second shot, but my third shot was really kind of the one that I was most proud of. I hit it to about a foot (from the pin)."
Hauenstein could lean on some pretty good experience when the regional went to a playoff.
"Yes and no," Tigers coach Art Tang said. "Every time she plays and has a good round, she puts pressure on herself, so I think the more she plays and the more pressure the more comfortable she gets."
Hauenstein tied for sixth at state last year. And even though the Tigers won the team state championship in 2016, this regional team title was even more special, she said.
"There's just something special about this team," Hauenstein said. "Obviously, winning state was amazing, but something about this team and seeing all the improvements they've made and just how passionate they are about it. It's been awesome."
The Tigers shot a 352, but they will have to do better to repeat as state champs, Tang said.
"The girls played OK today," Tang said. "I'm not going to say they played great. It's great that they won, but I think that we're going to have to cut about 15-20 strokes next Monday (at the Wheaton Academy sectional at Pheasant Run). Probably somewhere in the mid-330s or 340 to get out. The other girls, they've still got a few shots left in them, for sure."
Wheaton North placed second with a 361 team score, earning a sectional berth for the first time since 2011.
"It's pretty exciting," Falcons coach Karen Calabrese said. "The kids have been playing so well. They've been working hard, so I'm glad they get to see it pay off a little bit.
"I knew in my heart that we should advance, but I didn't want to say it to them because I didn't want any additional pressure. But we've been talking all week how we could advance if you play just the way you've been playing. They all played the way they've been playing, so here we are. It's awesome."
Glenbard West took the last sectional qualifying spot with a third-place 371, 5 strokes better than fourth-place York.
"She's having a great year, unbelievable," Hilltoppers coach Mary McGrane said of Moody. "It's nice to see a kid -- and this is my first year even knowing her -- so to see a kid like Sam, who's just a great person individually, just excel her senior year.
"She really kind of put her team on her shoulders and has kind of carried us. You even saw it today. Her shooting a 75. That was like, definitely brought her score down and allowed us to qualify as a team, which was huge."