After Close Sectional Doubles Loss, Chillicothe Tennis Team to Start State Play Tuesday

Weather pushes team play at Marshall back a day. Carpenter/Lourenco tandem denied state berth by whisker Saturday

As reported to C-T
Chillicothe High School tennis Lady Hornets senior Leah Lourenco serves a point as No. 1 doubles partner Cami Carpenter waits near the net during their match in the Class 1 District 15 team tournament championship round at Trenton Oct. 6. The non-team district doubles champs played their hearts out last Saturday in a bid to advance to the state doubles tournament, but lost at Lee's Summit 6-4, 4-6, 9-11.

nullLEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — After a tremendously-tight and heartbreakingly-close setback in this past Saturday’s Class 1 high school girls’ tennis non-team competition, it will be up to the Chillicothe Lady Hornets as a full squad to try on Tuesday to extend their season into next week.

Due to anticipated rain Monday (Oct. 11), the District 15 team champions will wait a day longer than expected to try to earn a berth in the state tournament’s Oct. 22 semifinals and finals at Springfield.

Somewhat-surprising champs of District 15 after a marathon 6-hours 5-4 victory at Trenton last Wednesday, the Lady Hornets now are due to duel District 13 champ Harrisonville in a best-of-9-positions dual match at Marshall Tuesday, beginning at 10 a.m., CHS coach Karen Jackson reported Sunday on the variance in the original schedule. The first-round match in state play had been slated for Monday.

Should Chillicothe best what seems to be a relatively-formidable Harrisonville squad, it will play the winner of the simultaneous battle at Marshall between favored District 16 champion St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond and the hosts, champs of District 14, in a quarterfinals-round match after a reasonable rest period Monday. The exact time will depend on the length of the first-round (sectional) matches, both of which will be stopped as soon as one team earns its match-clinching fifth position victory.

This past Saturday at Lee’s Summit North High School, CHS’ District 15 doubles champions Cami Carpenter and Leah Lourenco came within an eyelash of qualifying for non-team state play at Springfield Oct. 23 (and potentially 24).

The Chillicothe duo defeated Sophia Swingle and Anna Gaffney of Kansas City: St. Michael the Archangel 6-4 in the hard-fought first set in the best-of-3 match.

The tandems then continued to “box in a phone booth” through the second set, trading “blows” (points and games) with neither able to gain command.

Through nine games, they again arrived at a 5-4 score, but this time with junior Carpenter and senior Lourenco with the backs against the set wall, needing to take the next game to extend the set to 11th and 12th games and possibly beyond to a 12-points tiebreaker to decide the set.

Swingle/Gaffney, the District 13 runnersup, came up with the shots they needed to prevail in that 10th game, giving the KC duo the set and leveling the match at one set apiece.

That forced play to a match-deciding 18-points tiebreaker. The first side to win 10 points, if they were at least two points ahead, would go on to state.

Just as with the two sets, the tandems did lots of give and take, eventually splitting the first 18 points evenly to send the “overtime” into “extended overtime.”

The St. Michael’s combo captured the 19th point, putting Lourenco/Carpenter in do-or-die mode on the next point. However, the SMA entry claimed it, giving it the tiebreak 11-9 and the match and trip to state, 2-1.

That leaves extension of the Chillicothe season to the sport’s final week of the 2021 season up to the full squad, which dramatically delivered in the clutch at district.

In first-round state foe Harrisonville, the Lady Hornets will encounter a team against which it seemingly stands a good chance, based on Saturday’s non-team matches at Lee’s Summit.

While both of the state singles berth from the non-team sectional competition were captured by Harrisonville players, a closer look at those results suggests CHS players should have a chance to be right in each of their individual or tandem matches.

Top player Abigail Overbay outlasted Trenton’s No. 3 player, Alaina Overton, only by a 6-4, 6-4 margin for a No. 1-vs.-No. 3 clash.

HHS’ presumably No. 2 player, Morgan Evans, was shocking Trenton’s best, Mallory Sole, in a third-set tiebreak after dropping the opening set 1-6. Evans stormed back to shock Sole 6-2 in the second set before the two went at it, tooth and nail, just like CHS’ Lourenco/Carpenter did in theirs, before, in “extended overtime,” Evans won the last two points to take it 11-9.

Given the battle Overton gave Overbay Saturday, it’s not unreasonable to view Carpenter as being potentially very competitive against the HHS player on Tuesday.

Even if Evans, if she does play No. 2 position in singles, takes her singles set and teams with her fellow state-bound teammate to be a strong No. 1 tandem, the fact that Harrisonville’s presumably-second-best combo – Elizabeth Allen/Kayleigh Norris lost to Trenton’s No. 2 duo in straight sets (7-6, 6-1) in their sectional match, that suggests Chillicothe could be successful in the No. 2 doubles with its Rylee Washburn/Izzy Garr pairing.

Garr/Washburn lost to the Trenton duo 7-9 in each of the two regular-season meetings, but then were decisive 8-4 winners over it at Trenton last Wednesday in the team district final.

If Chillicothe can get at least one win out of the five matches which will involve Harrisonville’s non-team sectional participants, it could open the way for the lower half of the Lady Hornets’ lineup to tip the scales its way. If it can grab two of those five upper-half sets, its prospects would be enhanced accordingly.

Should CHS take Harrisonville’s measure Tuesday morning (and potentially early afternoon), its afternoon foe in the quarterfinals would be one it already has faced this season – with mixed results.

On Sept. 29, following both teams’ participation in the non-team Midland Empire Conference Championships at St. Joseph, they made up the team dual that Bishop LeBlond was supposed to host on Sept. 20, but could not, due to rain.

In an abbreviated format which, contrary to normal, began with singles play, BLHS’ Lady Golden Eagles not unexpectedly prevailed 5-0 with, similar to postseason matches, the action halted once a team had clinched the match. For Chillicothe, it was a long third-straight day of competition.

Two days before that, at home, the Lady Hornets had nipped Marshall 5-4, the CHS girls’ first match victory over the Lady Owls – traditional regional power in west-central and northwest portions of the state – since 2008.

In that one, Chillicothe pieced together victories in Nos. 2 and 3 doubles and Nos. 2, 5, and 6 singles to prevail.

Facing Marshall on its own courts with a state semifinals berth hanging in the balance would figure to be an even-tougher assignment, but not impossible. However, the anticipation is that MHS will not be able to handle Bishop LeBlond in the sectional-round match Tuesday morning.