Circle takes second at 4A tennis

Charles Chaney
The Circle Lady Thunderbirds tennis team poses (L-R: head coach Cran Chase, Lanna Chase, Annabelle Adams, Kenzi Gillispie Felipe Bastistella) with their 2020 Class 4A State Runner-up trophy. It is the first time in school history they finished as the runner-up.

TOPEKA — For the last three years, Lanna Chase has played singles and she finally got her chance at doubles when Kenzi Gillispie transferred from Newton. She took that chance and ran it all the way to the Class 4A State Championship Match.

While Chase and Gillispie fell in the title bout to a pair from Collegiate, the experience and reaching the pinnacle of their sport was more than enough.

“I never thought I would be here,” Gillispie said. “And to do it with Lanna was really fun.”

The pair finished 22-2 record.

“I’ve been wanting to play doubles for but needed the right partner,” Lanna Chase said. “When she [Gillispie] transferred here, it just made sense.”

It made sense all right as the duo ran off 10 straight matches until the state title bout.

They dispatched of Bishop Meige’s pair early with the 6-1, 6-2 win, setting up the tough match against Independence. Kristina Morrison and Mercy Smith stole the first set from Circle, 6-4. Then, the Lady T-Birds responded with the 6-3 win, setting up the tiebreaker that went to 10 games in the final set. Circle beat Indy 10-6 in the final set to send the pair to Saturday’s semifinals.

They beat Allyson Meier and Jennifer Voegeli of Topeka Hayden in a 3-set thriller, with Circle winning a tiebreaker in the second set to save themselves from elimination. They would win the third set 6-3 to advance to the Championship Match.

“You know, I’m so proud of these girls,” Circle head coach Cran Chase said. “With everything that has gone on and how COVID made us adjust with the loss of two qualifying spots.”

Gillispie, who missed the state tournament as a junior at Newton, use the chemistry built with Chase through club soccer to excel on the court.

“It helps that we’ve known each other for a while,” Gillispie said.

The pair started out the season with 12 straight wins and some were over qualifiers in this year’s state tournaments. They overcame tiebreakers and deficits.

“These girls have hit big free throws and penalty kicks,” Chase said. “They were ready for the challenge.”

Gillispie-Chase fell 6-0, 6-4 in the State Championship to Lily Conrad and Ella Graham of Collegiate.

4A Singles

For Annabelle Adams, it is never about winning. It’s about having fun and enjoying time with her friends and teammates.

“It’s a game,” Adams said. “I don’t take lessons. In fact, tennis takes me away from doing trumpet lessons.”

Adams still finished third in the state for the second time in her career. A loss against last year’s champion, Emma Mantovani sent her to the 3rd place match on Saturday.

Adams, one of the top players in Class 4A all season reached the semifinals on Friday beating Lauren Sandstrom of Topeka Hayden 6-1, 6-1 in her first round match. Then, as she did in last year’s state semifinals, she beat Sonya Murphy 6-1, 6-1 to advance to Saturday’s events.

“She sets such a good example for the rest of the kids,” Chase said. “They get out and hit with the others and make sure they’re supporting them. That’s the stuff we’re going to miss.”

Adams lost to Mantovani 6-4, 2-6, 4-6 in a match that took more than 2½ hours that saw everyone from the complex gather around and watch the final set.

“She won’t admit it but she wanted to win today,” Chase said. “She played in a tough field and finishing third is not easy.”

Adams had a long match in last year’s semifinals against Murphy, which gave her issues in the Championship Match against Mantovani. This year, Adams beat Buhler’s Brittany Teufel 6-1, 6-0 to clinch third place.

“Of course you want to win,” Adams said. “I really like having fun and enjoying my friends.”

Circle clinched second place in a tournament that sported Wichita Trinity, Wichita Collegiate, Topeka Hayden and Buhler.

“I wouldn’t have believed we would be finished second over all these great programs,” Cran Chase said. “A lot of teams came in with more qualifiers than we did and to do what we did; that’s special.”

The Lady Thunderbirds have invested in tennis with upgrades to their facilities and the younger players are finding out what it takes to be successful and look to continue that into future seasons.

“They see how hard we are working,” Adams said. “They want to get here and we see that in practice.”

Collegiate won the team title, with Circle finishing second and Buhler third.

“I can’t really put into words what it means to finish second,” Lanna Chase said.

For Lanna and Adams, the pair has been a staple for the last four years, both qualifying as a doubles pair as freshman. The second place finish and the medals together as seniors will hold a special place in their heart.

“It’s football, basketball, and volleyball at Circle,” Adams said. “Maybe this will give tennis a little more attention.”