First-year Pembroke Hill girls tennis coach Mike Duckworth had a simple description of his team’s semifinal match on Thursday at the Missouri Class 1 team state tournament.
“Gut-wrenching,” Duckworth said.
The defending champion Raiders fell to John Burroughs, 5-4, at the Cooper Tennis Complex. Pembroke Hill defeated the Bombers in last year’s team state championship match.
“It was a match in which it was a shame that either team lost,” Duckworth said. “And even more of a shame that my team is the one which lost.”
Pembroke Hill had a 2-1 advantage after the doubles competition and extended its lead to 3-1 after a win at No. 1 singles by Yurie Heard.
Pembroke Hill got a victory from freshman Jacqueline Kincaid at No. 4 singles in a three-set match. But the Raiders could never get the fifth and decisive victory.
The Raiders certainly had their chances. Pembroke Hill senior Ellison Rooney won the final three games of the second set to even her match against Sydney Lister, who has not lost a match in the last two seasons. But Lister came back to capture the third set.
The Raiders’ best chance came at No. 5 singles, where senior Bella Foote had a 6-4, 4-1 lead. But John Burroughs senior Grayce Nieberle won the final 11 games of the match to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-0.
“I was proud of the girls,” Duckworth said. “They left everything they had on the court. If we played them 10 times, who knows how many we would win. The key for John Burroughs was their depth. We have had a lot of success in the three-to-six spots, but we have never come up against a team with that depth.”
Pembroke Hill rebounded from the disappointment of the nearly four-hour semifinal match to defeat Bolivar, 5-0, in the third-place match.
“The semifinal match was nerve-wracking,” Heard said. “It was so close.”
Heard will now prepare to defend her individual singles state championship. The state team competition was decided on Thursday. Individual singles and doubles competition begins Friday.
“I’m completely healthy and ready to go,” Heard said. “It is my last year and I want to end it with a bang.”
Notre Dame de Sion finished second as a team in Class 2. The Storm had an inpressive 5-2 semifinal win against St. Joseph’s Academy. The Storm won two of the three doubles matches and then got singles wins from Catherine Henne, Lanie Jones and Devon Graham.
They fell in the team championship to Rock Bridge, 5-0.
“All six of the Rock Bridge girls play year-round,” Storm coach Karen O’Neill said. “I was proud of these girls. We exceeded our expectations and improved throughout the season.”
In the individual singles competition, Margo Gerke of Notre Dame de Sion takes in a 28-1 record to the Class 2 tournament. Henne and Jones of Sion have a 14-6 record entering the doubles bracket.