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Like most high school athletes, Langley tennis players Sydney Goodson and Kathryn Emery know their time together is limited.

Unlike other sports where teammates have two, three or maybe four years to develop a rapport, the doubles tandem understands if they want to win a state title, then it has to come now.

That’s because Goodson — one of the Saxons’ star players — is a freshman; Emery graduates in a couple weeks.

Together the two have been one of the Liberty District’s top doubles team, and during this past week’s Northern Region tournament the duo walked away with a championship after defeating West Springfield’s Morgan Yang and Molly Prins.

On Thursday, Goodson and Emery will compete in the Virginia High School League’s AAA state tournament.

Although there is an age difference between them, Goodson and Emery said they knew their futures were tied together long ago.

While Goodson was in middle school, her older sister Lily played on the Langley team alongside Emery. Through her sister, Goodson began to meet the members of the current team and develop a relationship with her future doubles partner.

“Coming in this year I had watched my older sister and met most of the team by coming to her games,” Goodson said. “I already knew most everyone on the team, so it wasn’t hard to adjust or get used to everyone. I knew who my teammates would be.”

Emery quickly identified the younger Goodson as a potential doubles partner.

“We’ve sort of been waiting for this year,” Emery said. “We knew Sydney was really good and I thought that when she joined the team we’d have a really good chance to make a run at states together. So we want to try to do that while we can.”

During preseason practice the two showed they were a good fit, and coach Sara Vincent placed them together. Since then, the two have been a dominant pairing.

“We knew for a while that she would be coming up [to join Langley] and I thought that together we might have a really good year,” Emery said. “My relationship with her sister allowed me to get to know Sydney so I kind of already knew what playing with her would be like.”

In other high school sports, it’s not uncommon for a senior and freshman to experience a few growing pains together.

There’s an assumed gap in maturity and focus, but Goodson and Emery said they’ve experienced nothing of the sort. Their age difference hasn’t been a factor and their skill sets — and attitudes — complement each other on the court.

“We work really well together, we know how to pump each other up on the court before a match,” Emery said. “We just work well and know how we play, so we haven’t [had many troubles] getting used to playing together.”

That familiarity will be necessary when the state tournament begins. Unlike in the Northern Region tournament — where Goodson had seen most of her competition in the regular season — the state competition will feature many unknown competitors.

The tournament also comes with a more intense atmosphere, one Goodson said she’s yet to experience fully. Although she has competed in major Mid-Atlantic tennis tournaments on her own, she said the state high school tournament carries a special buzz around it.

“I’m a bit nervous because it’s the big tournament,” Goodson said. “But it helps that I [played in the June 22 state tournament team match] and got used to the atmosphere.”

Fortunately, she has a senior to guide her through their trials. Just as she did through the regular season, Emery said she hopes to mentor her freshman teammate in next week’s tournament.

“I know most of the girls we will be facing,” she said. “So I can help her and tell her about them. We think that we can do really well [at states together].”

ralbers@fairfaxtimes.com