There appeared to be a sense of urgency Saturday at the Class 4A girls tennis championships – at least for Collegiate.
The schedule was interrupted a couple of times by downpours.
This did not bode well for Collegiate, which had its homecoming dance Saturday night.
But that didn’t keep the Spartans girls from delivering coach Dave Hawley his ninth consecutive team championship, spanning time in Class 3A as well as 4A.
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Hawley said it’s a feeling that never gets old.
“Every year is a brand new thing,” he said. “And this team has been grinders all year long. They’ve done a great job of coming to the top.”
The junior-laden Spartans got a doubles championship from the first-year pairing of Sydney Lair and Hannah Geoffroy, both juniors.
And to make it even sweeter, the duo defeated Arkansas City’s Kelsie Burr and Chassidy Weathers – the team that edged them out in a tiebreaker for the Tournament of Champions doubles title a few weeks back.
Lair and Geoffroy pulled out a 6-2, 7-6 (2), 6-2 triumph in the final over Burr and Weathers, who were defending Class 5A doubles champions but moved down when Ark City was recently placed in 4A.
It seemed to be fitting that the match went to a third set and that the earlier match provided vital experience, Lair said.
“It was nice to know what their game was,” she said. “It was an amazing tournament for us, and it was just a great experience.”
Hawley said he initially was reluctant to pair the two, especially because Lair was a state runner-up last year in singles. But their off-court friendship morphed into critical on-court rapport.
“We’ve been friends, we’ve gone to school together forever,” Geoffroy said.
They’ve also played each other, so it’s a bit of a relief to team up, Geoffroy said.
“She beat me really badly,” she said.
“It was the start of a tennis relationship,” Lair added.
Geoffroy said the two are very familiar with each other on court as well as off.
“She knows my game, she knows our weaknesses and strengths,” she said.
Collegiate juniors Lauren Conrad and Riley Ruffin pulled in fourth- and seventh-place finishes, respectively, and Hawley also lauded the performance of his second doubles team of Sally Lair and Nicole Withrow.
Topeka Hayden junior Brooklyn Hunter (21-0) cruised to her third straight state singles title. Andover Central got a third in singles from Czech exchange student Liba Cermakova. Senior Makenna Adams and sophomore Kylie Aufdengarten of Wellington took third in doubles.
Collegiate won with 38 points. Ark City won by virtue of a tiebreaker over Independence with 30 points. Wellington was fourth with 29 points, narrowly missing a trophy.
As nice as the team title was for Hawley, he was even more proud of the pieces of his championship puzzle.
“Every single kid won at least two matches at the state tournament,” he said. “That’s an incredible level of play. We had great performances and great points from everybody.”
“So it totally was a team effort.”
Given the history between the two teams, the doubles final was likely the marquee event. And it lived up to exactly that.
Lair and Geoffroy took an early 3-0 lead in the first set, then surrendered a couple games before capturing the set.
The second set was hotly contested. The Ark City duo jumped to an early lead, but Lair and Geoffroy rallied and forced a tiebreaker, which Burr and Weathers pulled out.
“The second set we were a little defensive, and we played not to lose as opposed as playing to win,” Hawley said.
In the deciding third set, Lair and Geoffroy again benefited from breaks for a 3-1 lead, then broke Weathers’ serve for a 4-1 lead, then cruised from there.
Hawley said getting to 4-1 was a key.
“Huge,” he said. “We started playing the way we can play. That third set we came out and played to win, and that’s what you have to do against a team like that, that is so good.”
Even though Lair and Geoffroy are in their first year as a pair, Hawley said they’ve shown a lot this season.
“They’re so cool, and I’ve talked to them several times before the match and then after the match,” Hawley said. “I told them, ‘Even if we had lost that match, that was a great tennis match.’”
He said Topeka Hayden coach Christy Sheetz told him it was the best doubles match she had seen all year.
“And she knows good tennis, because she’s got (singles champion) Brooklyn Hunter playing for her,” Hawley said.
The seventh-place finish was special for Ruffin, who said she didn’t qualify last year for state.
“It (meant) a lot to make points for the team this year,” she said.
Third place was just fine with Cermakova, who was bubbling over about being at state.
“It was awesome,” she said.
But she said her three-set semifinal loss to Independence’s Lyssa Schabel was a little frustrating.
“I was only two points from winning!” she said. “It was a mentally tough match. It was a very long match.”
Even so, she said she’ll be packing up some good memories to go home once the school year ends.
“I am now seriously thinking about (returning to the U.S. for college),” she said.
Class 4A state girls tennis tournament
Team scores: 1. Collegiate, 38; 2. (tie) Arkansas City and Independence, 30 (Ark City wins tiebreaker); 4. Wellington, 29; 5. Andover Central, 22; 6. Marysville, 20; 7. McPherson, 18; 8. Topeka Hayden, 15; 9. Abilene, 11; 10. Bishop Miege, 8; 11. Winfield, 7; 12. Buhler, 6; 13. (tie) Circle and Baldwin, 4; 15. Spring Hill, 2; 16. Chapman, 1. Others: Hays, Smoky Valley, Parsons.
Singles: 1. Hunter, Topeka Hayden, def. Schabel, Independence, 6-1, 6-0; 3. Cermakova, Andover Central, def. Conrad, Collegiate, 6-0, 6-2; 5. Downard, Marysville, def. Beswick, Abilene, 9-6; 7. Ruffin, Collegiate, def. Arnett, Ark City, 9-4; 9. Aractingi, Miege, def. Allen, McPherson, 9-8 (7); 11. Lowe, Wellington, def. Trout, Independence, 9-4.
Doubles: 1. Lair-Geoffroy, Collegiate, def. Burr-Weathers, Ark City, 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-2. 3. Adams-Aufdengarten, Wellington, def. Bruce-Edmonson, McPherson, 7-6 (4), 6-4. 5. Rusk-Rusk, Wellington, def. Marquez-King, Independence, 9-6. 7. Holthaus-Williams, Marysville, def. Walker-McChristian, Ark City, 9-4. 9. Maddex-Sagehorn, Andover Central, def. Esau-Frederick, 9-0. 11. Priest-Bounvonxay, Winfield, def. Markley-Wallis, Baldwin, 9-4.