WARREN - At the beginning of the season, John F. Kennedy singles players Megan Guliano and Maria Stroup didn't think they would end up playing with each other as doubles partners.
Then one day, Guliano had an idea.
"We were walking up the driveway to practice one day and she came up to me and said, 'Hey, let's partner up for sectionals,' " Stroup said. "And that's pretty much how it was decided."
The move to become partners on the court is one that has proved beneficial to both - as they are now a two-seed in Friday's Division II district tennis tournament at Harvard Park in Canton.
"We were so excited when we beat Lakeview (to advance to districts)," Guliano said. "We were jumping up and down and hugging each other, calling our parents. We said we would never be a team like that and we were but we were so excited."
Having made it to districts might have been a surprise to some people in the local tennis scene, but not for the two of them. Unseeded to begin play, they began their sectional run by defeating the Cardinal Mooney doubles team of Lizzie Mathews and Gianna Parella, 6-4, 6-3.
Next, the pair defeated Marina Patitucci and Kaitlin Ginkinger of Lordstown, 6-3, 6-2 to advance. But then came the toughest match of the day - facing the third seed in the tournament, Emily Kohut and Sasha Pavlenko of Lakeview in the sectional final.
"We knew that was going to be the big match," Guliano said. "We were excited when we beat Mooney, but we knew we still had Lakeview ahead."
It was, but the underdog Kennedy duo won both matches, 7-5, 7-5, to advance to the district tournament.
"We played with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder, because we felt that we should have been seeded and we weren't," Guliano said. "But we complement each other well and were able to win."
Though the two are years a part in terms of schooling and age - Stroup being a freshman and Guliano a senior - their tennis skills are very even. It also helps that they have strengths where the other has weaknesses.
"I have a better forehand than she does, but her back hand is lethal," Guliano said. "My back hand will never be as good as hers."
While Stroup agreed, she said they also do well in keeping each other level headed.
"We work well in the mental game, because we are both pretty calm and know how to calm each other," Stroup said. "She always tells me when to calm down and not let a bad shot get to me. Then when I see her getting worked up, I go and calm her down. So mentally, we work well together."
Another thing they have in common is that they both embrace the underdog roll - one that suited them well up to this point.
"We like the roll of the underdogs," Stroup said. "No matter who we are playing against, that's the mindset we are taking in to the match. We never want to think of ourselves as the favorite."
When they take the courts in Canton on Friday, technically they are the favorites, as they face the third-seeded team of Andreja Didovic and Mary Brigid-Joyce from Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin.
Guliano has been to districts before, as she qualified last year with her now graduated partner, Dana Nocera. Her experience has been passed down to Stroup, who will be making her first trip to Canton.
"She told me what it's like, how things work," Stroup said. "It's going to help. It's nice to know what's going and having her been there before is even better."
While Stroup has three more years to get to Canton, this is the last time Guliano will have a shot at a chance to reach the state tournament.
"It's my senior year, I'm not ready for this to end yet," Guliano said.
The chance to extend the season begins at 9 a.m. on Friday.