Tennis Lady Hornets outlast Trenton for district team crown
Take twice-interrupted, nearly-6-hours road marathon from tough top seed Wednesday
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
TRENTON — One could hardly ask for more from Wednesday’s memorable and scintillating Chillicothe High School tennis Lady Hornets 5-4 victory over top-seeded Trenton in the Class 1 District 15 team tournament championship match.
One could – and might have – asked for less, in terms of elapsed time and distractions.
Soldiering on despite an approximately-2-hours rain delay and later lighting outage of about 15-20 minutes, both teams’ players displayed admirable resilience and dedication to their goal of advancing to the team state tournament, as well as lots of clutch shot-making skill, sportsmanship, and perseverance.
In the end, just before 10 p.m. in competition in which the first swings of the racquets occurred six hours before, a forehand shot by CHS senior Audrey Snider during a final-set tiebreaker never came back over the net to her from game THS player Harley Hall and Chillicothe had the crown by a slim, slim, 5-4 margin.
“I tell you what – we had some girls step up big and win some matches that we needed to win to pull this out,” stated Karen Jackson, Chillicothe head coach. “Audrey Snider winning that third-set tiebreak to seal the deal was amazing!”
Chillicothe’s reward for reversing the outcome of two previous closely-contested losses to Trenton during the regular season is a Monday match or two.
As District 15 champions, the Lady Hornets will meet District 13 title-winner Harrisonville in the first round of state play.
That match apparently will be played Monday morning at the Lee’s Summit North High School courts, Jackson indicated.
The winner of that match will take on either District 16 champion St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond or the District 14 winner (either Marshall or Higginsville) – most likely BLHS – in the state quarterfinals at the same location that afternoon, too.
“We’re just going to go and give them our best shot and see what we can do when we get there,” Jackson shrugged, aware any further advancement will be icing on the cake of an already-sweet postseason.
Even had the Lady Hornets not outdueled Trenton Wednesday, the CHS season would not have been complete.
Its top doubles pair – junior Cami Carpenter and senior Leah Lourenco – is to play today (Saturday) for a trip to the approaching Class 1 non-team state tournament.
They’ll face Emily Weddle and Peyton Netton of Bishop LeBlond Saturday in a state-qualifying sectional match at Lee’s Summit North’s courts, it was clarified Wednesday.
At Trenton Wednesday, after their home courts were dried following the rain, the top-seeded Lady Bulldogs came out growling and rallied from a pre-precipitation deficit to push second-seeded CHS to the brink of defeat.
“We were rolling before the rain came through and feeling pretty good about things,” Jackson admitted after the match, recalling the advantages her squad had built in the doubles action which preceded the showers.
Prior to the rain, Carpenter/Lourenco had a 7-4 lead in what was considered to be the likely-pivotal No. 1 set. When play resumed, however, Sole and Overton grabbed the bull by the horns.
One game away from losing the single-set match, they charged back to tie it at 7-7, then prevailed in a best-of-12-points tiebreaker to gain a momentum-swinging 9-8 (3) triumph.
Even with CHS’ No. 2 duo – sophomores Rylee Washburn and Garr – and No. 3 tandem – Anderson/Snider – closing out their sets/matches by 8-4 and 8-6 margins, respectively, for a 2-1 Chillicothe lead after doubles, the pressure had shifted squarely onto the lower half of the CHS lineup, given the quality in singles of Trenton’s top three players.
However, keyed by one senior’s clutch singles triumph and eventually sealed dramatically by another senior, Chillicothe pulled off the long and crazy victory which, as the late Yogi Berra might have mused, wasn’t over until it was over.
From the standpoint of compelling competition, the wait through the early 2-hours delay proved worth it. Dramatic developments and tense, yet almost-universally sportsmanlike, competition went on and on until fittingly capped by an up-for-grabs ending.
With CHS briefly having led 3-1 after senior Olivia Anderson won what had become the critical No. 4 singles match in straight sets – a victory Jackson simply labeled “huge,” Trenton’s top three players responded by closing out their three very competitive matches to put the Lady Bulldogs up 4-3.
“Our (Nos.) 1 and 2 and 3 played very good matches; they just came up on the short end of the stick,” Jackson commented on Carpenter’s 1-6, 2-6 loss to individual district singles champ Mallory Sole in a top match of lengthy rallies, Rylee Washburn’s 6-7 (3), 1-6 setback against highly-promising, lithe THS freshman Astrid Soriano, and Lourenco’s 3-6, 6-7 (2) loss to Alaina Overton.
Her team’s composite back to the wall, CHS’ Izzy Garr stepped up to capture her No. 6 match 6-2, 6-2 over Jillian Voorhies to even things again at 4-4, leaving the outcome and berth in the state tournament resting on the No. 5 singles battle.
In it, Lady Hornet Snider, a newcomer to regular varsity-level play in her final year of high school, grabbed the first set 6-4 and, facing a foe she’d dominated 8-2 on Sept. 23, seemed poised to close out Hall in straight sets for a Chillicothe victory.
Hall had other ideas, though.
Trailing 2-3 in the second set and at deuce in the sixth game, she made a series of remarkable point-saving shots on the no-ad game-deciding point, the last one becoming a clean winner that denied Snyder a 4-2 advantage and, instead, leveled the set.
Then, as if the earlier rain delay had not been enough, after the first two points of the next game had been split, the courts’ lights – on a pre-set timer system – automatically shut off.
Due to the type of lighting system used, a new wait of about 15-20 minutes had to be endured while the lights “cooled” and then ever-so-slowly glowed back toward full candlepower.
When the match was able to recommence, as happened after the earlier stoppage, Trenton seized the initiative.
Hall won the interrupted seventh game, then the eighth, too, and stood one game won away from taking set No. 2 and forcing the match to a first-to-10-points tiebreaker that would determine the district champion and representative in team state play.
Snider tried to push back, winning the next game and having a lead in the one after that. However, one point away from tying the set at 5-5, she saw the next two go to Hall instead. When Hall again hit a winner on a deuce point, it gave her the set 6-4. The championship indeed would hinge on the relative handful of points in the tiebreaker.
Through the first 12 points, neither player created more than a 1-point lead and they stood tied 6-6 after 12 points.
Snider finally followed up a win of the 13th point with the next for an 8-6 advantage, ratcheting up the pressure on Hall. Another point finished in the Lady Hornet’s favor, putting Chillicothe on the threshold of advancement.
One more relatively-brief rally saw Snider’s second shot not get returned successfully and, as the senior – who had required a brief medical break just before the end of the second set when she had a sudden asthma attack – threw both her arms skyward, Chillicothe had repeated as district team champ.
On the Daryl Danner Memorial Park courts in Chillicothe Tuesday, the host Lady Hornets overcame the loss by its district doubles champs in their semifinal match against Excelsior Springs by winning the next five position matches to ring down the curtain on the action.
In the No. 1 double set (using pro-8 scoring – first duo to eight games with a lead of two games wins), Lourenco/Carpenter surprisingly were nipped Excelsior Springs’ Annallise Selby/Amanda Mayfield tandem, 7-9.
Fortunately for Chillicothe, ESHS’ Lady Tigers didn’t have a lot else going for them.
The No. 2 doubles set was dominated by Washburn/Garr, 8-0, and CHS’ Anderson/Snider No. 3 doubles combo was nearly as impenetrable, cruising 8-1.
In singles, at No. 6, Garr raced through the first set at love, then closed out the match with a 6-2 runaway in the second set, while No. 4 action saw Anderson best her by the same scores, only in opposite sequence.
At No. 2, Lourenco bounced back smartly from her doubles disappointment, staking out an early lead and claiming the first set, 6-3. She then shut out her opponent 6-0 in set No. 2 to give Chillicothe an insurmountable 5-1 lead, terminating play.
With Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s triumphs, the Lady Hornets improved their dual-matches record for the season to 8-10.