McPherson High’s girls tennis team enters the Class 4A State Tournament on Friday as the No. 1-ranked team.
It hopes to leave Saturday afternoon the same way.
The Bullpups begin defense of their state title Friday morning in Winfield after spending the entire season ranked No. 1. They have all hands on deck, qualifying both singles entries and both doubles teams.
Bullpup coach Tyler Brown has been doing a lot of computing, trying to figure out if the points will fall just right for the Bullpups to repeat. Unlike last year, the points are expected to be far more spread out after MHS ran away from the field.
It starts in singles, where a couple of unexpected happenings have caused a seismic shift in the landscape.
“Singles is much tougher,” Brown said. “There are two girls in the field that were not there last year and both are regional champions and undefeated, so it bumps everyone down.”
Coffeyville’s Sayaka Smith, a sophomore, is 28-0 and defeated defending state champion Abbi Groff of Independence last week for the regional title. Sophie Robertson, a senior from Baldwin, is 30-0, so they are frontrunners for the top two seeds.
Meanwhile, McPherson’s Ellea Ediger was second in the state last year, losing to Groff in the finals and is coming off a regional in which she lost only three games total. She is 25-3 on the year.
“I’m still hoping to get Ellea the 2 seed, but it will come down to a coaches vote most likely,” Brown said. “And even though she has three losses, I still like the shot of her getting it just because she has played such a tough schedule.”
Winfield’s Emily Sarnacki is the other regional champion and is 27-4 on the year, so she’ll likely be the No. 4 seed.
MHS’ Katlyn Reifschneider was second in last week’s regional, but is only 8-8. However, she was sixth in the state last year and her record is deceiving as she has battled a shoulder injury all season.
Brown said a goal for her is to medal, as her points will help toward the team score.
Doubles should be fascinating. MHS’ Camry Holle and Emily Ediger (27-9) are the defending state champions, but received a push last week from teammates Madison Hoffman and Rachel Ivers, and then lost to Buhler’s Kendra Nachtigal and Jessica Steffen in the finals.
Brown is looking for his defending champs to bounce back as the pressure is somewhat off of them since the division is now considered wide open.
Other doubles champions from last weekend included Kalei Matthews and Shaeli Matthews of Independence (32-4), Victoria Lybarger and Jenna Groene of Winfield (27-4) and Bailey Gardner and Breanna Dinkel of Hayden (22-6). Brown expects either the Buhler or Winfield team to earn the No. 1 seed.
Maybe the key for the Bullpups is the team of Hoffman and Ivers. They are flying under the radar with a 9-2 record, but played very well last weekend. If they can get through the first day, the Bullpups’ chances should improve.
“The team goal starting out is to get everyone to Day 2,” Brown said. “If that happens, everyone will contribute points for the team. If we can do that I think we will be a Top 3 team. But to win it we will need a couple Top 5 finishes from someone. Teams are deep this year. Winfield has six along with Independence, Topeka Hayden and than several teams with 4-5 girls as well like Wellington, Bishop Meige and Chapman.”
Should the Bullpups win, it would be banner No. 53 to fly in the Roundhouse. Holle, Emily Ediger, Hoffman and Reifschneider are all seniors, while Ivers and Ellea Ediger are sophomores.
“I don't have a total point to go for. I’m just hoping everyone can play to their potential and everything else should take care of itself.” Brown said.