A year ago, seniors helped Kapaun Mount Carmel win both the City League and the Class 5A state tennis title while Bishop Carroll – without any seniors — settled for second both times.
This year, the roles are reversed, with Kapaun having no seniors and Carroll relying heavily on them.
Yet, heading into Saturday’s City League Tournament at Coleman Tennis Complex, Kapaun once again is perched atop the league standings, stating its case Monday with a 5-4 dual-meet triumph over Carroll.
Crusaders coach Kathy Schulte said her freshmen have made the difference.
“I didn’t know we’d have some freshmen on the varsity,” she said. “I just thought we’d be filling in from JV.”
Freshman Carmen Mindt won at No. 4 singles Monday, and Allie Gahagan — who initially didn’t make varsity and challenged her way onto the roster — scored a key tiebreaker victory at No. 6 singles.
Kapaun swept through the dual-meet portion of the league, clinching that portion of the league title with a 8-1 victory Thursday at South. The Crusaders can win the league outright by winning the tournament.
The City League tournament format presents a whole new set of challenges, Schulte said.
“Each player can only contribute one point each,” Schulte said, “and that might favor Carroll’s depth. In tournaments, you have to play either singles or doubles, and we’ve been losing to them (Bishop Carroll) when we play in tournaments.”
“It’s going to take winning the No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles to win (Saturday).”
Carroll will be out for revenge. Schulte said the Golden Eagles and their fans have voiced their frustration online.
“Twitter is going crazy,” she said. “They’re not happy, and they’re definitely out for revenge.”
Allie Schulte, the youngest of Kathy’s three daughters to play at Kapaub, was fourth in Class 5A singles in 2011 has made great strides in her junior year. She also had the benefit of watching older sisters Megan and Maddie when they played at Kapaun. Allie said this gave her incentive.
“I knew I wanted to do as well as they did,” she said.
Another major reason for Schulte’s improvement is better control of her emotions.
”Last year, I had a bad attitude and really embarrassed myself,” she said.
Monday, she played Carroll’s No. 1, junior Courtney Lubbers, and maintained her composure in a 6-4, 6-0 victory.
But she knows Saturday will be difficult.
“It’s going to be really close,” she said. “After we beat (Bishop Carroll), it really helped our confidence. But now we’re expected to win, and it could go either way.”
Saturday kicks off are league tournaments with the Central Kansas League’s at Hesston as well. The AV-CTL will have its tournaments Monday at Hutchinson (Division I), Valley Center (Division II) and Riverside Tennis Center (Divisions III-IV). The Central Plains League tournament is Monday at Coleman Tennis Complex.