HAYS — Winning a state tennis championship was a rite of passage for Wichita Independent's Caroline Lincoln.
Lincoln, a junior, defeated defending Class 3-2-1A champion Elyse Bigler of Collegiate 6-3, 6-1, on Saturday afternoon, following in the footsteps of older sisters Lacy and Jackie, who also won state tennis titles for the Panthers.
"It is a very sweet victory," Lincoln said. "Now I'm in the club. It's nice to keep the legacy alive."
The final was a rematch of the regional final, a match that Lincoln also won. That victory helped give Lincoln the confidence she needed in Saturday's final.
Never miss a local story.
"I was a little intimidated when I faced her in the regional, because she was the defending champion," Lincoln said. "But I was confident today, even though there was a different atmosphere here and a little more pressure."
This is the third state medal for Lincoln after finishing third as a freshman in Class 3-2-1A and runner-up last year in Class 4A.
"People will be coming for the title next year, so I know I will have to deal with that pressure," Lincoln said. "But I'm all for it."
Despite Lincoln claiming the single's title, Independent couldn't catch Collegiate in the team standings. The Spartans won their 20th girls title with 59 points. Independent finished second with 50 points while Conway Springs finished third with 24.
Independent topped Collegiate for a regional title earlier in the week, the first time since 1985 that the Spartans didn't win a sub-state or regional final. But Collegiate coach Dave Hawley believes that might have been a good thing.
"I felt like we didn't compete like we could have," Hawley said. "And the hunger they showed this weekend came from that."
The doubles team of sophomores Grace LeMaster and Jillian Johnson helped lead the Spartans with a 3-6, 6-2, 11-9 win over Ellinwood's Katie Morgenstern and Bailey Schartz in the final.
Morgenstern and Schartz defeated the state champion duo in the regional final.
"If we had won at regionals, that would have helped make a difference," Johnson said. "It felt good to come here and finish the job that we set out to do."
LeMaster and Johnson dropped the first set and trailed 2-0 in the second before pulling together with some inspired tennis.
"That second set was the best they played all year," Hawley said. "They didn't wilt. They hung in there and played sound tennis."
Independent and Collegiate renewed their 3-2-1A rivalry after the Panthers competed in 4A last year.
The two teams combined to take the top three spots in singles and four of the top five spots in doubles.
"If I had my choice, I'd rather won here," Independent coach Simon Norman said. "Our girls played well, we just couldn't keep up with Collegiate."
Team Scores — Wichita Collegiate 59; Wichita Independent 50; Conway Springs 24; Ellinwood 22; Claflin 18; Marysville 17; Hoisington 9; Sterling 9; Larned 8; South Barber 7; South Central 5; Kansas City Christian 4; KC Maranatha 4; Tribune 4; Wakeeney 3; Ashland 2; Sabetha 2; Hutchinson Trinity 1; Meade 1; Phillipsburg 1; Wabaunsee 0; Beloit 0; Lawrence Bishop Seabury 0
Championship—Caroline Lincoln, W. Independent d. Elyse Bigler, W. Collegiate 6-3, 6-1. Third place— Esther Cho, W. Collegiate d. Jessica Downard, Marysville 7-6 (7-4), 6-3. Fifth— Ashley Koester, Conway Springs d. Janel Prather, Sterling 9-2. Seventh— Allie Hipp, Claflin d. Nina Bwalya, Hoisington 9-5. Ninth— Colleen Zirkle, W.Independent d. Tara Ediger, Coldwater South Central 9-3. 11th— Miranda Erisman, Maranatha def Somer Schmidt, Larned default. Semifinals— Lincoln, W.Independent d. Cho, W.Collegiate 6-0, 6-1; Bigler, W.Collegiate d. Downard, Marysville, 7-6 (10-8), 6-1.
Championship—Grace LeMaster-Jillian Johnson, W.Collegiate d. Katie Morgenstern-Bailey Schartz, Ellinwood 3-6, 6-2, 11-9. Third place— Jillian Poynter-Emily Ramseyer, W.Independent d. Radha Nagireddy-Kelsey Eklund, W.Independent 6-1, 6-2. Fifth— Keli Dunn-Natalie Farha, W.Collegiate d. Abby Koester-Chelsea Ebenkamp, Conway Springs 9-3. Seventh— Morgan Hekele-Courtney Liebl, Claflin d. Katie Becker-Erin Merklein, South Barber 9-4. Ninth— Michelle Miller-Dari Beckwith, Ellinwood d. Kristin Schartz-Berre Bert, Larned 9-4. 11th— Sarah Huerter-Kiley Schwarz, Marysville d. Amelia Fabrizius-Leah Flax, WaKenney 9-0. Semifinals— Morgenstern-Schartz, Ellinwood d. Nagireddy-Eklund, W.Independent 6-3, 7-5; LeMaster-Johnson, W.Collegiate d. Poynter-Ramseyer, W.Independent 3-6, 6-1, 10-7.