HESSTON — Heading into the season opening tournament for the Smoky Valley girls tennis team, the Kansas Coaches Association had the Vikings ranked as one of the teams to watch, just outside the top five.
Led by Sophie Smith in the No. 2 singles bracket, the Vikings took second ranked McPherson all the way to the wire, before falling one point short in team standings.
Regardless, SVHS head coach John Bellah was more than pleased with his team's performance.
“I think everyone, outside of my No. 1 doubles team, out performed expectations,” Bellah said. “I think there were five good teams here today, and my expectations were met and maybe even exceeded.”
The bizarre thing is, the Vikings probably should have tied McPherson, or won the tournament outright, if their No. 1 doubles team would have met expectations.
The senior doubles team of Katie Bellah and Emily Roets had a breakout season last year, going 4-1 at state to take fifth. They were expected to meet Emily Ediger and Rachel Ivers of McPherson in the semifinals, Instead Bellah and Roets were upset in the first round to a team from Maize South, forcing the duo to go backside.
Bellah and Roets cleaned up the back draw, to finish 2-1 on the day for fifth. If they had won their first round match, the very worst Smoky Valley would have finished was tied for first.
“We have high expectations for them,” Bellah said. “They haven’t been playing that well in practice yet, but I think they’ll figure it out. I think with some hard work in practice, and getting in some more quality matches will help them tremendously.”
Smith had a tiring day, but found the strength in the championship match to cap off a 3-0 day. After winning her first round match in a tiebreaker, Smith won her semifinal and championship matches 8-6.
Tegan Miller and Meredith Galloway were also winners at the No. 2 spot, going 3-0 for first. The duo won their first match handily, before fighting for two straight close victories.
“Our two’s I was very pleased with,” Bellah said. “Overall I’m pleased. I know there is a lot of room for growth, and I’m excited we have a couple of weeks to do that.”
Sophomore Kira Haxton stepped up by playing No. 1 singles. After winning her first match, Haxton lost two straight to finish the day fourth.
Overall, the Vikings scored 23 team points, one shy of first place McPherson. Hesston was third, as the rest of the teams dropped off after that.
The Vikings are next in action Tuesday, when they travel to Ellsworth.
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