High School Sports

Liberty pair falls in Missouri Class 2 state tennis tourney

One point away.

That was all that was between Liberty seniors Cassidy Paul and Gretchen Ohlhausen and their second consecutive appearance in the Class 2 doubles semifinals at Missouri state tournament on Friday.

Paul and Ohlhausen had breezed to a straight-set first-round win over Ellie Gorman and Maddie Stieven of St. Joseph’s Academy at the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield and were totally dominant for the first 12 games and three points in their quarterfinal match against Columbia Rock Bridge freshmen Faith Wright and Katherine Dudley.

The Liberty duo was up 6-1, 5-0 and 40-0 with the usually reliable Paul serving. But the Bruin newcomers were able to save three match points in that game, two coming on Paul double-faults.

And in dramatic and almost unbelievable fashion the Bruin freshmen reeled off 10 consecutive games and eventually the match 1-6, 7-5, 6-2.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in all my years of coaching,” said Rock Bridge coach Ben Loeb, who began coaching in the spring of 1989.

“The Liberty girls are an excellent doubles team, and they really took us to school in a first round match last year. Our girls were relaxed and started playing with a lot of energy. The momentum swung our way, and I think they may have gotten a little tight and started thinking of the situation.

“In spite of the loss, those girls have a lot to be proud of in their high school careers.”

Momentum plays a huge factor in all sports, and there was a big momentum switch in this one.

“We were playing very aggressively and with a lot of confidence,” Ohlhausen said. “I really don’t know what happened out there. All I know is that the momentum started to go their way, and it was hard to get back.”

Despite breaks at 6-0, 5-0, Paul felt it was just going to be a matter of time before she and Ohlhausen would be able to close out the match.

“I thought we were still OK,” Paul said. “But they started to get all of the energy, and the ball seemed to be bouncing their way.”

Liberty coach Pam Koch weighed in this way: “Those Rock Bridge girls were very resilient but I didn’t feel that they did anything that much different.” “We got very conservative and then we got too tight and hit out.”

Paul and Ohlhausen did go on to win their consolation quarterfinal match against Ellie Lewis and Athena Zeng of Marquette, 7-5, 7-5 and advanced to Saturday’s consolation semifinals assuring themselves of another state medal.

Wright and Dudley’s comeback for Rock Bridge prevented three Kansas City-area teams from reaching the Class 2 doubles semifinals. Logan Morrissey and Camryn Parnell of Lee’s Summit North had a pair of convincing straight set wins and will match up with the Rock Bridge comeback kids in one semifinal Saturday morning.

Notre Dame de Sion’s Michaela Henne and Margo Gerke advanced to the semifinals with a pair of wins over St. Louis area teams. They defeated Maura Dunn and Emily Kickham of Kirkwood 6-3, 6-1 in the first round and followed with a stellar effort in a 6-2, 6-1 win over Olivia Conway and Ellie Helton of St. Joseph’s Academy.

St. Louis area players dominated in Class 1 singles, Class 1 doubles and Class 2 singles with three of the four semifinalists.

▪ There are no KC-area players remaining in the winner’s bracket in Class 2 singles as Park Hill South senior Adele Royle fell to Bridget Mayfield of Kirkwood in a hard-fought quarterfinals match, 6-2, 7-5. Mayfield finished second in state in singles two years ago and won the state doubles championship last year with Sarah Stuhlmann.

“It was a very competitive match,” said Royle, who was making her fourth appearance at state. “It could have gone either way. I just made more unforced errors.”

Pembroke Hilll, which won the Class 1 team championship Thursday, still has a singles player and doubles team alive in the winner’s bracket.

Yurie Heard lost just three games in her two matches Friday and will be the favorite to add an individual state championship to her team title Saturday. Heard will play Grace Klutke of Whitfield in one semifinal, while Villa Duchesne freshman Riley Clarke and Windsor sophomore Annika Menke play in the other semifinal.

The Class 1 doubles final four appears very challenging. Pembroke Hill’s Cindy Wang and Ellison Rooney had smooth sailing Friday, winning their two matches and losing just four games in the process. They will play Lucy Reis and Sydney Lister of John Burroughs in the semifinals.

The other Class 1 semifinal features Clayton’s Connor Cassity and Cameron Freeman — who finished second in state last year — against Brittany Green and Merrit Stahle of Villa Duchesne. Green is the defending Class 1 singles champion.

The semifinals are scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday. The championship matches in both classes, both singles and doubles, are slated for 1 p.m.

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