Butler County girls tennis preview

Charles Chaney
Butler County Times Gazette

Andover returns a bulk of their talent that took them to third place in the Class 5A state tournament last year and are set to make a run toward that State Championship.

Head coach Steve Alexander is aware of what is awaiting their first match on September 3.

“We just want to keep building off last year’s success,” Alexander said.

That success sees the lead from the Sinclair sisters. Sarah and Emma finished fifth and ninth at state, respectively. They combined for over 50 wins last season and are set to battle atop the rankings of the singles division once again.

They also return Annabelle Tatemsomboo and Aurelia Tan in doubles. They were sixth in the doubles at 5A state last year. As seniors they will be one of the top doubles teams in the state.

The senior leadership of the Trojans should be enough to overcome the lack of summer preparation due to COVID-19.

“Uncertainty should not prevent us from focusing on our goals,” Alexander said.

That leaves room for a doubles pair to step up in the #2 doubles position. A handful of freshmen could step into that role and provide those extra points to push Andover into a State Championship team. Anna Jittawait, Brooke Walker, Hannah Pappademos, Katlyn Aune will all be vying for time.

The Trojans do lose Hannah Weers and Sydney Benjamin, as they were state qualifiers as well.

Is it State Championship or bust for the Trojans? That remains to be seen. They should be a top three team at state once again if everything goes right.

“Every player works their hardest, has fun and represents Andover high well, everything else well take care of itself,” Alexander said.

Andover Central returns a lot of experience from a year ago with the expectations of improving upon last year’s 10th place finish at state.

The Jaguars will return Hilary Tallman, who was a part of a doubles team that finished 10th at state last season. She will team up with Lizzy Kear this season for the top doubles team to start the season. Both seniors will look to get Tallman back to state in a unique looking Class 5A that will see many teams not send teams to the state tournament due COVID-19 issues.

Anna Strickland and Grace Schaefer will start the season out in singles as they combined for 40 wins a season ago. Strickland, a junior, qualified for state last year. She had a three-set thriller in her opening match at 5A State.

“There are a lot of very talented players out there, especially in the 5A classification,” Andover Central head coach Janet Glaser said. “We plan to try and manage things on our side of the net and play with tons of energy.”

Schaefer, a sophomore, won 19 games as a freshman. She had the unfortunate task of facing Paige Stronghoner in her first regional match last year. Stronghoner finished third at 5A State last season.

Hannah Lee (Sr.) and Mac Evans (So.) will press up into the opening tournament’s double roles.

Positions are not set though. There are plenty of players who could step up if given the opportunity. Maggie Uhlenhop (Jr.), Abbie Lester (Jr.), Reece Solberg (So.) could all rise to the occasion this season.

“We have players who love to play, who are very athletic, and who never quit,” Glaser said.

They get their season started by hosting an invitational at their new courts on Sept. 8.

“We will strive to be competitive every time we go on court,” Glaser said. “Every match is an opportunity for personal growth and game improvement.”

Augusta loses a lot of varsity talent from last year and will look to do so with players who played at the junior varsity level this season.

“I’m sure we’ll have several ‘eye-opener’ matches,” Stevens said. “These girls will compete and are ready and willing to learn.”

Four seniors will slide into the doubles positions. While none registered any varsity matches, coach Stevens is confident they are ready for varsity action.

“We’ll learn quickly to identify their strengths and weaknesses,” Stevens said.

Until this week, Ashlyn Bowen was anticipated to be the top singles player for the Orioles, but due to college classes, she will step away from tennis.

That leaves room for players like Charlize Lichlyter, a junior, and Peyton Childers, a freshman, to step up and prove they have what it takes.

The season kicks off for the Orioles on Sept. 8 as will take part in the Andover Central Invitational on the new courts at Andover Central High.

Despite setting a school record with 46 wins and finished with a top six position in the Class 4A State Tournament, the Circle Lady Thunderbirds are looking for more heading into 2020.

Circle sent multiple players to state last year and a plethora of talent for another run at it. With seniors Annabelle Adams and Lanna Chase leading the way, Circle has their eyes on a bigger prize. Adams was the state runner-up in Class 4A singles. The senior is coming off a 28-2 record. Adams rolled through her regional and up to the state championship match but fell to Emma Mantovani of Wichita Collegiate.

Then, there is Chase, she’s a three-time state qualifier. Chase went 2-2 in the 4A State Tournament last season after going 22-5 throughout the season. The Big 1-2 combination gives the T-Birds a strong case for one of the best teams in the state.

Cran Chase, who enters his third year as the head coach for Circle has quickly amassed a quality program that can be compared with those of 4A.

“We have a chance to be a very strong team,” Circle head coach Cran Chase said. “We are loaded with seniors this year and we also have some juniors that will be battling for varsity time.”

Bridget Lindberg, Adisyn Cornali, Kenzi Gillispie and Lauren Madina will all be up for key spots on the varsity squad.

They aren’t shying away from competition either. They open the season in the Independence Invitational, which has the Independence Bulldogs, that finished fourth at state last year.

They’ll play Wichita Collegiate, Maize and other bigger schools like Salina Central.

“I really like this senior class we have this year,” Chase said. “The key will be to figure out the lineups between doubles and seniors.”

The sky is the limit for the T-Birds this season.

After one of the best year’s in recent memory for the El Dorado tennis team, they will look to reload on the back of sophomore Rylee Marnell-Ball.

“We’ll have a lot of big shoes left by the outgoing seniors, not only in terms of skill but also leadership,” Kunkel said. “It will be interesting to see how this team shakes out.”

Gone are the tandem of Mallory Parsons and Makayla Chabot, who finished 11th in doubles. Also gone is Nalea Payton, who’s off to play tennis at Bethel.

“Even though we lost a lot from last year, we still have several jv players who saw some varsity action throughout last season,” Kunkel said.

Trinity Lawrence (14-14 last season), a senior, is expected to step into a varsity role this season. Ashlyn Luna (12-7), a junior will also be a varsity player this season.

Marnell-Ball is a name to watch out for. She qualified for state as a freshman with a 20-win season. Other coaches in 4A raved about her skill set.

Marnell-Ball experienced the guantlet last season as a freshman, playing the likes of Brittany Teufel of Buhler, Sonya Murphy of Collegiate and other big time upperclassmen who’ve all since graduated. Going through the fire last season should have prepared her for this season.

Raegan Barkus, Izzabela Smith and Maya Wade could be sophomores that step into varsity roles this season.

El Dorado starts their season on Saturday, Aug. 29 in Independence against Circle, Independence and Parsons, all top teams at 4A state last year.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how this team plays out,” Kunkel said. “We’ll try to improve on each previous match.”

Preseason preview is unavailable.

Head coach: Steve Alexander (5th overall, 2nd at Andover)

Last year: AVCTL-II Champions, Regional Champions, 3rd at Class 5A State

Top returner: Sarah Sinclair (senior)