WINFIELD — It became apparent early the heir apparents weren’t going to be denied.
McPherson High seniors Ellea Ediger and Rachel Ivers, the Class 4A second-place state finishers a year ago, stood head and shoulders above the field this weekend as they blew through the draw to win the title.
Ediger and Ivers defeated Andover Central’s Grace Uhlenhop and Jordyn Maddex 6-1, 6-1 in the finals after having knocked off Smoky Valley’s team of Emily Roets and Katie Bellah, 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals.
The Bullpup duo was never seriously threatened as it didn’t drop a set the entire weekend to finish the year 23-2 and earned a rightful place on the MHS Wall of Fame.
For Ediger, it was the end to an amazing career. She was second in the state in singles as a freshman and fifth as a sophomore. She switched over to doubles last year and joined Ivers to take second.
Ivers medaled for the third time as she had taken fifth with Madison Hoffman during her sophomore year.
Ediger and Ivers are the first MHS doubles team since 2013 to win the state title, with Camry Holle and Ediger’s sister, Emily, accomplishing the feat.
The doubles team sparked the Bullpups to 35 points, second only to Wichita Collegiate. Independence claimed the other plaque with 26 and that’s how the teams had been ranked going into the tournament.
It was a complete team effort as Maisie Edmonson was seventh in singles, Heidi Myers and Taylor Bruce were ninth in doubles and Rachel Carlson scored some welcomed points by taking 12th in singles.
“We had an outstanding state tournament,” MHS coach Tyler Brown said. “All six of our girls took home a state medal. Normally that would be good enough to win a state title. But everyone knows the tradition that Collegiate has. (Collegiate coach) Dave Hawley just took home his 49th state championship and that says something in itself that we were just three points away from knocking them off.”
Brown reflected back on what this season meant.
“A story I will always tell is how Ellea Ediger, in her freshman year, was playing in the state tournament in Topeka and found her way to the semifinals and was down 0-5 in the third set and never gave up,” Brown said. “Everytime I went to talk to her I was like ‘just win one game and go from there.’ Not only did she win one game, she reeled off seven games straight and found herself in the 4A state finals as a freshman. When our McPherson teams gather around under our gazebo at the McPherson courts and sit and reflect on tournaments, this is always one I share with our teams. No matter how down and out you are, you can always pick yourself up and march on. This is true for tennis and in life. Many of these girls may not go on and play competitive tennis again, but what they can take away from being part of a McPherson team I like to think is much more than the game of tennis. It's how you will go on and be an outstanding individual and somebody in the world today that can make an impact in someone else's life, not just their own.”
Ediger, Ivers and Myers played for the last time and Brown says they’ll forever have an impact on the program.
“Our seniors will be greatly missed,” he said. “Ellea Ediger, Rachel Ivers and Heidi Myers left their mark on McPherson girls tennis the right way. All year long they showed the underclassman what it takes to succeed at the highest level. They lead by example — through leadership, hard work, compassion, friendship and determination to never give up. It says something about our team that when you do get that loss in Day One sometimes it’s easy to just say it was not my day. Somehow, though, every one of our girls continued to battle and find their way through the draw and to Day Two, which meant they were going to be in the Top 12. That was one thing I think sometimes I overlook just because that is our expectation in McPherson.”
The tradition should go on next year.
“Maisie Edmonson, Taylor Bruce and Rachel Carlson will be our core group coming back next year,” Brown said. “With what our senior players instilled in them is what makes our tradition great. I wish I can take credit for all of it, but a big thank you goes to the parents as well. They laid the foundation of the characteristics that show in these young ladies.”
Brown said none of this was possible without the loyalty of his assistant coach Noah Lindfors.
“When you have a program that has a tradition in winning, you need someone that will carry that on and Noah does exactly that,” Brown said. “When you have everyone playing at the same time you have to be able to divide and conquer. And there is nobody I trust more than Noah. He does an unbelievable job.”
While the Bullpups didn’t win the title on the court, Brown felt like his team was a champion in his book.
“I'm glad we took second as a team and that everyone of our girls medaled, but the relationships and characteristics I got to witness is much more rewarding,” Brown said. “With having three sons it truly felt like I had 12 daughters as well on the love and respect I got to see during team meals, summer lessons, along with them helping run summer tournaments and rockin’ rallies. Outstanding group.”
MHS won the state title in 2013, took second in 2014, tied for third in 2015 and then placed second this year.