The Class 4A and 5A Girls Tennis Tournament get underway on Friday in Pittsburg for 5A and Winfield for 4A, respectively. Butler County is well represented in both as Andover and Andover Central qualified a handful of players. While, Circle and El Dorado each qualified four each for 4A.
Front runner: Kapaun Mt. Carmel
The Crusaders are the heavy favorite to win Class 5A. There are some competitors but talking to some coaches, it’s Kapaun’s title to lose.
Clara Whitaker is the singles favorite. She’s 27-1 with only a loss to a 6A qualifier, Alisa Prinyarux of Blue Valley Northwest. She beat her teammate, Reagan Boleski in the regional championship. Boleski is 21-3. The Crusaders also qualified both of their double’s teams but they’re more of darks horse.
Keep an eye on: St. James Academy
The Thunder are not to be reckoned with. They’re No. 2 behind Kapaun in the coach’s rankings. They’re led by Molley Book and Madi Biondo in the doubles and Megan Ward in the singles. Ward, only a sophomore, win a really tough regional that saw Gabbie Chavez, the pre-emptive favorite for the regional, finish fourth.
Their doubles duo will get them points and that’s the key. If they can get to both to Day 2, they’ll have a real chance at pushing Kapaun for the 5A crown.
Dark horse: McPherson
McPherson is a distant second as they have the undefeated doubles team and qualified all six players for state. However, it’s dependent on whether or not they can get players to day 2. Sure, the doubles team of Taylor Bruce and CeAnna Allen will be there but will anyone else? That’s the biggest question you have for the Bullpups.
The Trojans qualified all positions, which is way up from a season ago. The Sinclair sisters lead the way with Sarah winning the Emporia regional. She’s 25-7 on the season and has won eight straight matches. Emma finished third in the regional and is a veteran at the state tournament.
Sarah needs the right seeding. Most of her losses have come to state qualifiers. She has the capability to find herself into the semifinals but there are some big names like Whitaker and Callie Sanborn of Salina Central that could be in the way.
Both doubles teams made it. Sydney Benjamin and Hanna Weers leading the way for the Trojans. While their record (20-11) may not be as pretty as Sinclair’s, the runner-up in Emporia is something to keep an eye out on.
The Jaguars will send two groups to the 5A State Tournament. Jazzmyn Williams and Hilary Tallman finished third in the regional. They’re 19-8 on the season. They were the unfortunate losers to Jacey Arnett and Ellie Messenger in the semifinal on Saturday, Oct. 12.
They also will have Anna Strickland for singles. She’s 19-8 on the season and owns the fourth most wins as a sophomore in Class 5A. In the regional, axq loss to Clara Whitaker in the second round, sending Strickland into the consolation bracket. She took care of business, qualifying for state. Give Strickland credit, she doesn’t get shut out often. Only Sarah Sinclair and Whitaker shut her out.
The Favorite: Wichita Collegiate
The defending champions might do it again and there aren’t many teams who can say anything about it. Sallie Lair and Lily Conrad highlight the doubles portion for the Spartans. They haven’t played a lot of matches together (9-3) but they took down Kylie Aufdengarten and Rylie Rusk of Wellington in the regional. In a battle of the future of 4A, Emma Mantovani lost in a close battle against Isabella Sebits.
4A is so wide open in many spots, it may be the year Collegiate runs away with it. The other players will do their best to eliminate one another and only Annabelle Adams of Circle has a less than four losses as a regional qualifier.
Doubles goes the other way. There are a few dominate duos like Aufdengarten-Rusk, who’ve only lost two to Lair-Conrad. Kaydn King and Tia Gregory of Independence, who are 34-1. Their only loss to Arkansas City’s duo.
This is why Collegiate is probably going to run away with 4A. There are some decent teams to give them a run.
Who to watch for: Buhler
The Crusaders qualified all four for state. They finished second and third in the singles portion. With Aliyah Fredrick runner-up with only a 15-9 record. Payton DeMeyer and Alex Hutton won the doubles regional.
The Darkhorse: The Adams Family
Annabelle Adams is your favorite to win the singles bracket. She dominated the Collegiate regional that was filled with top tier talent like Sebits from Wichita Trinity and Sonya Murphy of Collegiate.
Adams is 22-1 on the season with her lone loss to Hesston’s Halle Krehbiel, an 8-6 decision on Sept. 24. Since then, Adams has been surgical. Outside of a single set to Mantovani, she hasn’t lost more than two games in a set. Only seven sets all season did Adams lose more than three games.
The Thunderbirds have more than just Adams at state. Lana Chase qualified through the singles. She fell to Murphy at Regionals and all of her losses have come to players who qualified for state. Chase, only a junior, qualified like Adams through a tough singles bracket. Only Eliza Camp of Winfield had more than 10 losses. No seniors would qualify through that regional. In fact, only the Collegiate regional.
Fun note: her and Adams are 3-0 at doubles partners. That would have been a formidable doubles duo for anyone.
In the doubles department, Abigale Bilson and Haley Clements made waves with their sixth place finish at Collegiate. They haven’t played a lot but their 7-9 record is one of six players and/or duos who will head to state with a losing record. They made their mark at regionals.
Bilson had been paired with Maren Edson in the early part of the season but Cran Chase made the move and it paid off. Bilson was only 4-7 with Edson. Her a bit better with their 7-9 record.
Kent Kunkel only had one qualify for state last season and the season before he had zero qualifiers. A bit by bit, the Wildcats continue to get better. The have a state-of-the-art outdoor tennis facility on Main Street. That’ll help improve the game now the players have a quality place to practice.
Nalea Payton headlines the Wildcats’ state roster. Payton finished second at the Chanute regional, finishing only behind a really tough Gracen Friess. Friess is one of the few that won more than three games against Adams.
Payton has been a model of consistency this season. She’s 19-12 but she’s consistently battled against some of the toughest competition in the state. She has losses to players like Adams, Chase, Friess, Fredrick and Camp.
Last season, Payton went 1-2 at state tournament, losing to Chase in the first round and falling to Buhler in the second round of the consolation bracket.
Freshman Rylee Ball is one of four freshman who made the ride down to Winfield in their first season as a varsity player. Ball, who finished fifth at regionals, is 20-12 and is the fourth most wins in all of Kansas in freshman singles.
After starting 1-4, it’s really been the Ball show. Since Sept 12, Ball has gone 10-5, really putting herself in a strong position for her first state tournament appearance.
The Wildcats also qualified seniors Makala Chabot and Mallory Parsons. The doubles team went 23-8 in the regular season. They’ve been hot lately. They’re 15-2 since Sept. 9. There was a rough stretch that saw them lose four of six an that’s where a half of their losses came. A loss to King-Gregory in the semifinals on Saturday kept them from a regional championship.
It’s satisfying for the seniors to get to state in their final attempt. The two were in different doubles groups last year, but there was signs it would work. They were 2-1 a year ago together.
Getting here is a huge accomplishment but for two players who’ve been with the program and getting to see it grow, this is the culmination of everything they have been working toward.