WINFIELD — McPherson High’s girls tennis team won’t be flying another banner in the Roundhouse, but it will be adding another plaque to the trophy case.
The Bullpups spent all season as the No. 1 team in Class 4A, but were overtaken by No. 2 Independence this weekend, as the Bulldogs won the state championship by nine points on Saturday.
Indy finished with 46 points to 37 for the Bullpups, who were a comfortable six points better than Winfield, which received the third and final plaque.
Topeka Hayden was a distant fourth with 20, while Coffeyville, Buhler and Miege tied for fifth with 18.
Oddly enough, MHS had five matches with Independence during the weekend and was successful in all five.
“We had another outstanding and successful year,” MHS coach Tyler Brown said. “I believe we were first or second in every meet but Collegiate's TOC where we were fourth, which had the best of the best in almost every classification so it is tough to not hold your head high after such success. I know with the tears our girls shed at the end of state that I would be lying if I said it didn't hurt a little bit not repeating. But things just didn't align right like they did last year. When Independence finishes above you and you beat them five out of five matches head to head it does sting a little.”
For Independence, it gave longtime coach Ken Brown the perfect retirement gift as the man considered by many as “Mr. Tennis” in that town has meant a lot to that school as well as Kansas tennis in general, according to Brown.
“I know it hurt losing to Independence, but if someone was going to knock us off I'm glad it was Ken,” Brown said. “This was his final year coaching and what a way to go out. His girls willed their way to a state championship. Ken has been the epitome of an outstanding coach. Much like what Stan Boggs (assistant Winfield coach and longtime head coach for Winfield) said in the ceremony at the end of the tournament, Ken not only has looked out and cared for his tennis players, he has had a heart for all players and has a true love for the game of tennis. He will be missed.”
The Bullpups’ Camry Holle and Emily Ediger nearly made it to the finals for a chance to repeat their championship of last year. They won their first set from Winfield’s Victoria Lybarger and Jenna Groene in semifinals 7-5, but the Vikings came back to win the second set by the same score. The third set was tight, but Lybarger and Groene came up with the clutch points when they had to for a 6-4 win.
Holle and Ediger did bounce back to breeze past Independence’s surprise semifinal entry of Caryingtyn Julian and Anna Miller in the third-place match, 6-2, 6-2. Julian and Miller actually made up Indy’s No. 2 team and was only third at last week’s regional, but played sensational tennis.
MHS’ other doubles team of Madison Hoffman and Rachel Ivers finished a strong fifth, winning their fifth-place match from Chapman’s Brittany Duer and Jessie Heiman, 9-3. That completed a nice meet for a team that really didn’t play that much together during the season, entering state with a 9-2 record.
Ellea Ediger, last year’s singles runner-up, roared back after her disappointing Friday loss to take fifth, including a 9-0 rout of Winfield’s Emily Sarnacki in her final match. Ediger had lost in the quarterfinals to Miege’s Mary Kate Reilly, who wound up taking third.
Two of Ediger’s wins came against Lyssa Schabel of Independence. Holle and Emily Ediger beat both of Independence’s doubles teams during the tournament, while Hoffman and Ivers defeated Indy’s regional championship team of Shaeli Matthews and Kalei Matthews in the consolation bracket.
“So even though we didn't meet our ultimate goal, I would say we did pretty well,” Brown said. “Independence just capitalized much like we did on the opportunities last year and took advantage of the draw that was presented.”
McPherson regional champions Jessica Steffen and Kendra Nachitgal of Buhler, who lost to MHS’ Holle and Emily Ediger earlier this season, came away with the state title by beating Lybarger and Groene 6-4, 6-1 in the finals. Coffeyville move-in Sayaka Smith completed a perfect season by defeating last year’s champion Abbi Groff of Independence in the singles title match, 6-0, 6-1. Smith finished the year 32-0 and was a member of the same league — the Southeast Kansas League — as Groff.
Four of the Bullpups’ six state qualifiers were seniors, including Holle and Emily Ediger, whose spot on the Wall of Fame is secure by virtue of their state title last year. Hoffman and singles player Katelyn Reifschneider, who competed in two matches on Friday, were the others. Ellea Ediger and Ivers will be counted on to lead the team next year.