It’s been 14 years since the McPherson High School’s girls’ tennis team has been able to hang a team state champion banner in the Roundhouse.
MHS coach Tyler Brown and his 2013 Bullpups feel it’s high time that changed.
McPherson enters today’s Class 4A Girls State Tennis Tournament at Kossover Tennis Center in Topeka ranked No. 1 in the state by the Kansas Tennis Coaches Association and with their full compliment of competitors in the field. A total of six Bullpups will vie for state titles, with two competing in the singles division and two teams in the doubles division.
While Brown says they are aiming for a top three finish, the players feel they have a better than average shot at the top spot.
“I think we’re probably in our best mental state,” Brown said. “I know, physically, they have the talent. A lot of it will be making the decision of getting it done and just executing what they know they can do. I like our chances.”
While the Pups have come close in recent years, including a third place finish in 2011, and has had a few singles and doubles champions, it’s been since 1999 that McPherson has been in the winner’s circle as a team.
The path to the championship will not include the two-year reigning champion Wichita Collegiate was bounced down to Class 3A in September’s classification reshuffling. That leaves the field wide-open, with more than just the Bullpups looking to capitalize.
“With Collegiate gone,” Brown said, “I’m sure there’s a lot of teams that feel it gives them an opportunity. I feel like one of those teams that has that opportunity. We’ve just got to embrace it.”
Also both helping and hurting McPherson’s chances at a state title is the fact that three of the top five teams in the final KTCA rankings competed against each other in Saturday’s regional at Wellington, with Andover Central emerging as the team champion, followed by Buhler and Winfield, the Nos. 2 and 5 teams in Class 4A.
Central qualified four for state; singles players Megan Wong and Ashley Fonger and the doubles team of Claire Colvert and Colby Fugit.
Buhler qualified two doubles teams but no singles, while Winfield is sending two singles players and a doubles team. Those three teams not having a full compliment can play havoc with teams in the hunt for the team title.
“What happens when you have that kind of loaded regional,” Brown said, “is that a team that is fourth or fifth can knock off a regional champion. Or, even if they’re not a regional champion, they knock off someone that’s seeded high from a different regional. There could definitely be some interesting first, second matches of the day, especially with that regional that was so good.”
Page 2 of 2 - MHS, though, looks to have decent seedings in today’s draw, however, as all of the Pups had top three finishes in the McPherson regional last weekend.
Freshmen Ellea Ediger, especially, was brilliant over the two days, as she failed to give up a game during the first day of play on Friday. Even into Saturday’s play, she only dropped three, both coming in the championship match against Abilene’s Kinsey Ford.
Coming into today’s tournament, Ediger has a record of 27-9, with wins over each of the 4A regional singles champions.
“I like Ellea’s chances,” Brown said. “I know she can do it, it’s just whether it happens on the right day.”
Even if Ediger doesn’t capture the singles title this weekend, Brown is confident the freshmen will have a spectacular career at MHS.
“Not too many girls like that come along in the McPherson program,” Brown said. “She’ll probably be one of the best to come through our program.”
Also in the hunt in the singles division is junior Katlyn Reifschneider, who has a record of 13-5 after last weekend’s regional. Reifschneider took third place and fought a tough battle with eventual runner-up Ford, before falling just short in a tie-breaker.
On the doubles’ side, the Pups finished 2-3 at regionals, with juniors Emily Ediger and Camry Holle falling in the championship match to Wamego’s Kaylee and Lanie Page, who also defeated MHS seniors Brooke Bate and Taylor Swartzendruber in the semifinals Saturday.
Both teams gave the undefeated sisters a fight and are looking for a rematch in the state tournament. Brown also says to keep an eye on the Chanute duo of Alexis Thuston and Abby Liudahl, who won the Parsons regional and have a record of 26-1 coming into today’s tournament.
“[The doubles bracket] is very good,” Brown said, “but I feel sure that we can definitely compete with all of those teams. We had Wamego at couple of match points [at regionals]. I think it can be anybody’s title.”
The weather could be a factor, as the forecast calls for cold, rainy conditions throughout the day, which could impact the amount of time the tournament is able to get on the court.
Play began this morning at 11 a.m. at the Kossover Tennis Center in Topeka. Live streaming is being made available courtesy of Chapman High School at http://www.nfhsnetwork.com/channels/mcpherson-mcpherson-kansas.
Contact Chris Swick by email at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @SwickSentinel.com.