PITTSBURG — McPherson High School's Taylor Bruce and CeAnna Allen secured their place in Bullpup tennis history on Saturday by capping off a 35-0 season with the Class 5A State Doubles Championship.
Bruce, a senior, and Allen, a junior, finished fourth at state together last season. The duo had bigger aspirations this season and exceeded their already lofty expectations.
Bruce and Allen defeated Book and Biondo of St. James Academy 6-4, 6-3 in the championship. Bruce and Allen went 4-0 at state, winning three of their matches in straight sets. The duo had to overcome adversity in the quarterfinals but prevailed over Kapaun Mt. Carmel 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.
McPherson head coach Tyler Brown was not able to attend day two of state due to his oldest son's wedding. First-year assistant coach Ricardo Sanchez stepped in and helped guide Bruce and Allen to a state championship.
"Taylor and CeAnna started the state tournament not playing their best on day one. They had to go three sets in their quarterfinal match, but their drive for perfection pulled them to raise their level of play," Sanchez said. "At the start of day two, I told Taylor I wanted her to be the best mover out on the court. I also told CeAnna I wanted to see her play at the net like she has never done before. These two knew what was at stake, and they rose to the challenge. They played some of their best tennis in those two matches to cap off an undefeated season."
The Bullpups finished fifth as a team in 5A but were only seven points away from state-champions Kapuan. The difference between the top five teams was incredibly close as St. James (26 points), Andover (28), and Salina South (29) rounded out the top five.
The Bullpups qualified their entire team for state. Perrin Schneider was the busiest Bullpup, going 4-2 for seventh place. Schneider capped off her sophomore season with a win over St. James for the second time in two days. Schneider reached the quarterfinals before falling to the eventual state runner-up from Kapaun.
"The singles side of the state tournament had a lot of last year's state medalists back, and for Perrin to place seventh is an amazing accomplishment," Sanchez said.
Senior Rachel Carlson and sophomore Patty Huerta went 1-2 on day one and did not place. Carlson ends her career as a four-time state qualifier and a state medalist during her freshman year in singles.
"Although these two didn't play together for the entire season, every time they took the court, you knew they could play with anyone," Sanchez said. "They complemented each other very well, both in playing style and personality."
Sophomore Sydney Achilles went 0-2 in singles. Due to her sixth-place finish at regionals, Achilles had a tough draw at state.
"Sydney really demonstrated her fighting spirit, and I'm proud of how composed she stayed, regardless of the score," Sanchez said.
Bruce and Carlson are big losses for the Bullpups, but with Allen leading the way, the Bullpups should contend for state hardware once again next season.
"I truly enjoyed coaching every one of these girls," Brown said. "We have a tremendous group of girls that are extremely talented. I look forward to continue working with all the girls that are coming back, but I will definitely miss Taylor Bruce and Rachel Carlson."
Three Vikings medal at state tennis
KANSAS CITY — Five Smoky Valley High School Vikings entered the Class 3-2-1A State Tennis Tournament over the weekend, and three returned home with state medals.
In doubles, Karik Elliott and Rachel Yenni went 4-2 for seventh place. Elliott will be one of Smoky Valley’s top returners next season, while Yenni is a senior.
In singles, Lena Rauchholz capped off her freshman season with a 12th-place finish.
The senior doubles team of Elaina McMillan and Emily Jones also qualified for state and went 1-2 on day one.
As a team, Smoky Valley scored 15 points, which was good for sixth place. Ellsworth (16 points), Sterling (21), Conway Springs (27), Central Plains (37), and state-champions Kansas City Christian (40) rounded out the top six.