• BULLPUP NETTERS BEGIN YEAR ON TOP — McPherson High’s girls tennis team has gone from the hunter to the hunted.
When the Bullpups open their season Thursday at Hesston, they’ll do so with a bullseye on their back.
Earlier this week the reigning state champion Bullpups were picked No. 1 in Class 4A and deservedly so. They return the state’s reigning doubles champions in Camry Holle and Emily Ediger, as well as last year’s state singles runner-up Ellea Ediger. For good measure, Katlyn Reifschneider is back after finishing sixth in the state in singles.
“I hope the play will take care of itself, but I’m sure they’ll feel a little pressure,” MHS third-year coach Tyler Brown said at AVCTL Media Day. “I think the talent and playing all summer long through the Mac Advantage Club really helps. We basically had over a season of hitting the ball this summer. Some teams don’t pick up a racquet until the 18th (the first day of practice). We’re glad almost all of our girls are involved in that Mac Advantage club.”
There are two open spots in the top six, but Brown believes he has no less than four or five players who are legitimate contenders. That makes for some spirited practices and ladder challenges, which can only make the team better.
All that may stand between the Bullpups and a 4A repeat is next month’s classification announcement. Wichita Collegiate, which is regarded by some as the best team in Kansas regardless of class, is right on the Class 4A-3A line. Should Collegiate move up, McPherson would have a titanic struggle on its hands, but one it would welcome.
“Collegiate is very good and very deep,” Brown said. “They’re not just two or three girls, they’re six outstanding girls.”
So the Bullpups could go from the hunter to the hunted back to hunters again.
• ADRIAN IMPRESSED WITH SOCCER TEAM — McPherson High boys soccer coach Chris Adrian can tell that his players prepared themselves well for the upcoming season.
“The players really impressed me the first week,” Adrian said. “We have been stressing intensity in everything we are doing and the players have really responded well despite practicing twice a day and in extreme temperatures. The team worked really hard over the summer and that is evident when you look at their fitness. They came in shape, ready to go and are competing really hard against each other."
The Bullpups are coming off magnificent back-to-back seasons, placing third in the state last year and fourth the year before, totaling 35 wins in the process.
But the nucleus of those great teams has departed, as Adrian must replace a nine-member senior class that had stuck together from the time they played for the McPherson Strikers.
Adrian thus is auditioning new talent that is going to have to step up and assume leadership immediately.
“The list of players who have surprised me is long,” he said. “The returning varsity players from last year have really made an effort to push themselves and get even better. You really get the sense that every player is fighting for their spot, which is leading to some competitive and intense practices. My sophomore and junior class is really strong.”
Probably the biggest area of concern is defense. The Bullpups were practically faultless last year as they were among the stingiest teams in the state.
“Our defense still needs some work, but that is to be expected when you graduate your entire back line which had played those positions for two to three years,” Adrian said. “We have the players to fill the positions, they just need some time to work together. Defense is so much about being on the same page and working as one unit. When you have new players there are going to be breakdowns. Leadership was an area that I thought would need work, but I’ve been surprised to see lots of players step up and take on that responsibility.”
The Bullpups will be road warriors to open the season as their first six games are on the road. They open Sept. 2 at Mulvane and remain on the road until Sept. 18 when they host Salina South.
CAUSE FOR WORRY? — For the first time in a month, the Kansas City Royals have lost back-to-back games.
After reeling off a month-long stretch that resulted in 24 wins in 30 games, the Royals' bats have gone dead in back-to-back losses to Texas and New York.
The Royals couldn't be expected to play at such a torrid pace and hit at such a robust clip. It's not often a team can go a month with both the top hitting and top pitching in the league at the same time.
But now you have to wonder if the frenzied hitting could become frenzied freezing all at one time. In baseball, it doesn't take much for a team to go in a collective slump.
Fortunately, the Royals' starting pitching should keep them in most games, though ace James Shields delivered a flawed-mechanics clunker Monday night in an 8-1 loss to New York. He danced around raindrops for six innings, but the Yanks drove him from the game in the seventh.
For the second game in a row, the Royals' only run came on a solo homer, this time by Mike Moustakas. Billy Butler's yard shot Sunday was the only KC tally.
KC manager Ned Yost is in no way pushing any panic buttons yet. Even though Minnesota comes to town tonight lugging the AL Central's worst record, it has been hitting the ball with some ferocity in the last week. It had back-to-back games against Detroit where it scored 20 and 12 runs.
If the Royals lose two of three or get swept by the have-nothing-to-lose Twins, you might want to check those collars and see if they're getting tight.