Varsity Kansas

Wichita area sweeps state championships after an emotional day of 5A tennis

Kapaun’s Clara Whitaker (top), Arkansas City’s Kelsie Burr/Jacey Arnett (left) and Bishop Carroll’s Lauren Steven/Paige Stranghoner (right) all won 2018 Kansas Class 5A state championships Saturday in Emporia. (Oct. 13, 2018)
Kapaun’s Clara Whitaker (top), Arkansas City’s Kelsie Burr/Jacey Arnett (left) and Bishop Carroll’s Lauren Steven/Paige Stranghoner (right) all won 2018 Kansas Class 5A state championships Saturday in Emporia. (Oct. 13, 2018) The Wichita Eagle

Every state tennis champion in Class 5A came out of one regional tournament.

The Wichita area showed its girls tennis dominance Saturday at the state tournament Saturday in Emporia. Bishop Carroll took home the team title. Kapaun sophomore Clara Whitaker won her second singles championship. And Arkansas City’s Kelsie Burr/Jacey Arnett won doubles.

Here are their stories:

‘Plenty of reasons’

Arkansas City high school girls tennis
Arkansas City’s Jacey Arnett (left) and Kelsie Burr (right) celebrate their 2018 Kansas Class 5A state championship Saturday in Emporia. (Oct. 13, 2018) Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

Kelsie Burr struggled to fight back the tears.

Burr, an Arkansas City senior, and her doubles partner junior Jacey Arnett had just won the 5A doubles title with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Bishop Carroll’s Lauren Steven/Paige Stranghoner. After the match, she pulled up her sleeve and revealed why it was so emotional.

“About a year ago this summer, one of our assistant coaches passed away, Anthony Brantley,” she said. “I always wear my bracelet for him. He had an unexpected heart emergency. The bracelet says, ‘Embrace the process.’ That was always his saying.

“He always believed in me from day one. He knew that I had potential even on my down days.”

Burr said she was playing for Brantley on Saturday, but he wasn’t the only one.

“We’re also playing for Chloe today,” Arnett said, referring to a teammate who is ill and hospitalized.

As if that weren’t enough motivation, Arnett said there was still someone else.

“Coach Shaw, too,” she said, honoring the former Winfield tennis coach who recently died of cancer.

Burr and Arnett split with their state final opponents during the regular season, including a loss at the Wichita Collegiate Tournament of Champions.

Arnett said getting a win when it mattered most was especially poignant.

“You just got to put the ups and downs together,” she said. “And hope for the best.”

For Burr, this is her second state title with the Bulldogs and her first since 2016.

“We knew we were going to have to fight for it,” Burr said. “It’s just amazing to go out on top.”

All Golden

Bishop Carroll high school girls tennis
Bishop Carroll’s Lauren Steven (left) and Paige Stranghoner (right) came runners-up in doubles at the 2018 Kansas Class 5A state tournament. (Oct. 13, 2018) Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

No Bishop Carroll player will go home with an individual championship Saturday night, but that doesn’t matter.

The Golden Eagles captured their school’s first state championship of the 2018-19 school year, snagging the 5A team title from reigning champion St. James Academy and City League rival Kapaun. None and all were champions.

Senior Brittany Steven finished runner-up to Kapaun sophomore Clara Whitaker for the second straight year, losing 6-1, 6-0.

Senior Brayden Steven came in fourth, losing to Kapaun freshman Reagan Boleski in the third-place match 6-3, 6-1.

And senior Lauren Steven/sophomore Paige Stranghoner were a match short of a state title after being paired midseason, falling to Arkansas City’s Kelsie Burr/Jacey Arnett in the state final.

No one was too down after the tournament wrapped up though.

“Just looking at our chances coming in, we were like,’Yeah, we could win individually, but we have so many seniors, and the chance of us all winning individually is not going to happen,’ ” Lauren Steven said. “We realized the best way for us to all share this joy was to go for a team win.”

Last year, Carroll was runner-up in the team standings to St. James Academy. The Golden Eagles were four points short. Steven said the the Golden Eagles knew they had to rely on their depth rather than trying to win individual titles.

That came to a head at their regional tournament.

In what turned out to be the deepest regional in Kansas, Carroll qualified all six potential players, including its second doubles team of sophomore Vanessa Steven/senior Lauren Esfeld. Coach Darren Huslig, who won his first team title in six tries, said that was the difference.

“The teams that have been able to win at state have been the teams that have gotten the most people there,” he said. “You can do well in one thing, but you got to have all the people representing.”

Shooting for 4

Kapaun high school girls tennis
Kapaun sophomore Clara Whitaker is taking home her second Kansas Class 5A state singles championship after winning Saturday in Emporia. (Oct. 13, 2018) Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

The goal was set two years ago, and she is still on track.

Kapaun sophomore Clara Whitaker came into high school with a goal of winning four state championships. She picked up her second in two tries with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Carroll’s Brittany Steven on Saturday.

Whitaker was the most dominant player — singles or doubles — at the Class 5A tournament. She got to her offense early and often and held her opponents back throughout the bracket, losing just three games in four matches.

“I had a lot of motivation,” she said. “I was really pumped up, and I really wanted to win. I really wanted to end my season really well and have a good match.”

With the state championship, Whitaker capped a 31-1 season with the Crusaders. Her only loss came in the Wichita Collegiate Tournament of Champions final against 6A state champion Chloe Kuckleman.

Saturday’s final was a rematch from last year. As a freshman, Whitaker beat Steven 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. But Saturday was just the sophomore’s day.

“I can’t really believe it happened,” she said. “It’s still all just processing.”

Class 6A

Singles Semifinals

Chloe Kuckelman (Blue Valley North) def. Ashley Jacobson (Olathe West) 6-0, 6-0

Ellie Kuckelman (Blue Valley North) def. Gabby Lee (Blue Valley)

Singles Third-Place

Gabby Lee (Blue Valley) def. Ashley Jacobson (Olathe West)

Singles Championship

Chloe Kuckelman (Blue Valley North) def. Ellie Kuckelman (Blue Valley North) 6-4, 6-4

Doubles Semifinals

Callie Flanagan/Christine O’Brien (Blue Valley North) def. Divya Gupta/Tatum Trysla (Blue Valley North) 6-1, 6-1

Gwyn Gifford/Olivia Kurzban (Blue Valley West) def. Lucy Kendall/Bridget Epstien (Shawnee Mission East) 6-4, 6-5

Doubles Third-Place

Divya Gupta/Tatum Trysla (Blue Valley North) def. Lucy Kendall/Bridget Epstien (Shawnee Mission East)

Doubles Championship

Callie Flanagan/Christine O’Brien (Blue Valley North) def. Gwyn Gifford/Olivia Kurzban (Blue Valley West)

Class 5A

Singles Semifinals

Clara Whitaker (Kapaun) def. Brayden Steven (Bishop Carroll) 6-0, 6-2

Brittany Steven (Bishop Carroll) def. Reagan Boleski (Kapaun) 6-3, 6-3

Singles Third-Place

Reagan Boleski (Kapaun) def. Brayden Steven (Bishop Carroll) 6-3, 6-1

Singles Championship

Clara Whitaker (Kapuan) def. Brittany Steven (Bishop Carroll) 6-1, 6-0

Doubles Semifinals

Lauren Steven/Paige Stranghoner (Bishop Carroll) def. Tara Devine/Gabbi Taylor (St. James Academy)

Kelsie Burr/Jacey Arnett (Arkansas City) def. Taylor Bruce/Ceanna Allen (McPherson) 7-6(6), 6-2

Doubles Third-Place

Tara Devine/Gabbi Taylor (St. James Academy) def. Taylor Bruce/Ceanna Allen (McPherson) 6-2, 6-2

Doubles Championship

Kelsie Burr/Jacey Arnett (Arkansas City) def. Lauren Steven/Paige Stranghoner (Bishop Carroll) 6-4, 6-4

Class 4A

Semifinals postponed to Monday in Topeka because of rain

Class 3-2-1A

Singles Semifinals

Lilly McNeill (KC Christian) def. Lily Perrin (Sacred Heart) 6-0, 6-1

Emily Ryan (Central Plains) def. Halle Krehbiel (Hesston) 6-1, 6-2

Singles Third-Place

Lilly Perrin (Sacred Heart) def. Halle Krehbiel (Hesston) 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1

Singles Championship

Lilly McNeill (KC Christian) def. Emily Ryan (Central Plains) 6-4, 6-3

Doubles Semifinals

Juliet Bartels/Emily Arnold (KC Christian) def. Kara Koester/Karlee Osner (Conway Springs) 4-6, 6-3, 6-1

Kylie Martin/Michaela Martin (Hesston) def. Jasmine Bates/Lydia Miller (Sterling) 6-3, 5-7, 6-3

Doubles Third-Place

Kara Koester/Karlee Osner (Conway Springs) def. Jasmine Bates/Lydia Miller (Sterling) 6-2, 6-2

Doubles Championship

Kylie Martin/Michaela Martin (Hesston) def. Juliet Bartels/Emily Arnold (KC Christian) 6-0, 6-4

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