Perhaps the best sign of the depth in the singles bracket at the Kansas Class 6A girls state tennis tournament was the last singles match on day one.
The quarterfinal pitted undefeated Madeline Hill from Washburn Rural against Blue Valley’s Morgan Steffes, who entered the tournament with just one loss.
The two were locked in competition for three complete sets, making it the longest match of the day. Steffes, who won the doubles title last season with Alexa Tiefel, took the first set 7-5, but ultimately dropped the next two 6-3 and 6-3 to fall to the backside of the bracket where she will fight for a fifth-place trophy.
“That easily could have been the final,” Blue Valley coach Nelson Elliott said. “There are four or five girls here who could win it, and those are two of them. It was a great match and very competitive.”
Hill will be joined by Tiefel and the Shawnee Mission East duo of Elizabeth Barnickel and Sarah Wilcox in the semifinals which start at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Kossover Tennis Center in Topeka. The four have just 10 losses between them.
Barnickel and Wilcox will play against each other in the first semifinal, which could set up a regional rematch in the final. Barnickel defeated Tiefel last week but also lost to her earlier in the season.
On the doubles side, the Eastern Kansas League and Sunflower League fared even better taking all four semifinals spots.
Katherine and Josephine Cao of SM West, who suffered their only loss of the season to Steffes and Tiefel, will face Sadye Hendler and Evelyn Chang of Blue Valley North in one semifinals match. SM East’s Aidan Epstein and Stephanie Wilcox will face Kylee White and Lindsay Haight of BV Northwest in the other. The SM East and BV Northwest doubles teams finished second in the state last season.
Three-time defending-champion SM East appears to be on pace for another title with Barnickel and Wilcox battling for a top four finish in singles and Epstein and Wilcox doing the same in doubles. The Lancers’ second doubles team — Joi Freirich and Larkin McLiney — was still alive as well and will contend for fifth place on the backside of the bracket.
Players focused on fifth place in Class 5A
The draws were not as kind in 5A for KC-area teams. Among area teams, there are two singles players and a doubles team still competing for fifth place, as play resumes Saturday at Emporia High School.
Blue Valley West’s Brylin Staats, who won the St. James Academy regional last weekend, and runner-up Taylor Westrom of BV Southwest was still alive on the singles side. Morgan Fangman and Hannah Smith will represent St. James Academy in doubles.
Miege’s Reilly pulls off upset
Mary Kate Reilly was the only Bishop Miege player still standing at the end of play on Friday, but she was doing her part to represent the Stags at the TH Vaughn Tennis Center in Winfield, Kan.
She knocked off 2013 Class 4A runner-up Ellea Ediger of McPherson to advance to the semifinals and avenge a loss from last season.
“She was a little intimidated, but she played a very smart game and didn’t go for too much too early,” Stags coach Andrew Groene said. “So far, that’s probably the biggest upset of the tournament.”
Vialle, Asbell still playing in Class 3-2-1A
For a freshman, Kansas City Christian’s Anna Vialle has already had a respectable showing. She entered the tournament with a 21-1 record and a regional title, but she wasn’t finished yet.
Vialle and Blythe Asbell of Maranatha Christian Academy were still in the running for a fifth-place finish in Class 3-2-1A at Dodge City High School.
To reach Kathleen Gier, call 816-234-4875 or send email to email@example.com.