ANDOVER – The formula was pretty simple, though it doesn’t really make sense and cannot be found in any high school algebra textbook:
But that equation precisely explains how Andover sisters Emma and Sarah Sinclair cruised to the Class 5A state doubles championship Saturday.
A year ago, both sisters competed in singles for the Trojans.
"We’ve played singles pretty much our whole career here," Emma said.
At last year’s state tournament, Sarah finished sixth and older sister Emma was ninth. But by pooling their resources and becoming a doubles team after the season had begun, the duo found a success that carried them to a state title.
The Sinclairs withstood a dual challenge in Saturday’s final – from both Bishop Carroll twin sisters Hope and Heidi Lubbers, but also from a south-southwest wind of 27 mph. But Emma and Sarah persevered through the wind for a 6-2, 7-5 victory.
The state final was a rematch of last Saturday’s regional final at Wichita State’s Coleman Tennis Complex, also in straight sets.
Though both had mostly had singles action before the teaming, Emma, a senior, had been playing doubles all year.
"I knew I wanted to play doubles this year," she said, "so I started out with a couple of other doubles partners. But they were like, ‘Hey, Sarah, we might as well try doubles.’ So, we did it, and we’ve been loving it."
Bishop Carroll used its depth to capture the team title, edging out defending champion Kapaun Mount Carmel. The Sinclairs helped boost Andover to a third-place finish, and that was fine with head coach Stephen Alexander.
"This year, with the reduced number of qualifiers, (a third-place finish) was going to be hard to do," he said. "So my girls really stepped up, and this is really special for me to get Emma, my senior here, a doubles championship. It made it even more special that Sarah, her younger sister, helped her win that doubles title (in) her last year."
As a freshman, Alexander said, Emma was Andover’s only state qualifier.
"She has brought this program back," he said. "These two Sinclair sisters are just the epitome of what this team is about."
Sarah acknowledged the wind made for another challenge.
"With the wind, we just have to kind of play our game and stay consistent," she said. "(We have to) keep working, even if our balls aren’t going where we want them to. We’ve just got to keep on it."
Alexander also said the wind played a role.
"The wind is a great equalizer," he said. "I’m glad my girls were able to play through it and pull out this doubles championship.
Although the southerly end of the court appeared to bedevil the players, Emma said both sides were equally torturous.
Both sisters agreed that this might be the worst wind they’ve encountered – and on the Trojans’ home court, no less.
Emma Sinclair said the thrill of winning a state title together – especially in her final opportunity – can’t be understated.
"It really means a lot to us," she said. "It was so special. This is my sister, and this is my senior year, so it was a perfect ending."
Sarah said there was a particular comfort level on playing on her school’s home court, which is located on Andover Central’s campus but shared by both schools.
"This court is amazing," she said, "and we’re so lucky to have it."
"It’s awesome," Emma said.
Andover tennis has a history of success at state. The Trojans are just four years removed from their last state title, when Grace Ball captured the singles title in 2016. That season, Ball was coached by her sister, Jessica Dibble.
As one might expect, there is a closeness among Andover High players, past and present.
"We love that whole family," Emma said. "Grace is my church leader, and we babysit for the Dibbles, too.
With Emma graduating, Sarah plans to return to singles competition next season in her senior year.
"It was fun playing doubles with my sister," she said, "but I think I might return to singles next year."
For Emma, who is undecided on a college, tennis may well be in her plans wherever she lands.