Tennis Lady Hornets made strong bid to extend year at sectional

Battled Harrisonville hard to finish in 2-5 state-tourney loss Tuesday

As reported to C-T
Chillicothe High School tennis Lady Hornets senior Olivia Anderson pushes a backhand volley back toward her opponent during her No. 4 singles match in the Oct. 6 team district tournament finals at Trenton. Having provided critical victories in both doubles and singles in that match to help advance CHS to state team play, Anderson and No. 3 doubles partner Audrey Snider came closest to giving CHS a doubles win in this past Tuesday's state-tourney first-round match against Harrisonville, losing 6-8. CHS' 2021 season ended with a 2-5 loss to Harrisonville.

nullMARSHALL — Despite their gallant and determined efforts, the Chillicothe High School tennis Lady Hornets’ 2021 season was shuttered Tuesday.

Postponed a day, due to Monday’s expectation – and occurrence – of rain, the CHS girls battled on very-competitive terms against Harrisonville at the Marshall High School courts late Tuesday morning, but, in the end, lost five of the first seven position matches completed to be eliminated from the Class 1 state tournament, 2-5.

Harrisonville subsequently was defeated by St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond to send LeBlond on to the team state tournament semifinals and finals next week.

Tuesday’s defeat closed the book on CHS’ season – which was highlighted by a district team championship and non-team district doubles championship for the Lady Hornets’ top duo, junior Cami Carpenter and 3-years senior starter Leah Lourenco – with an 8-11 record in dual matches.

In the state first-round match, the Lady Hornets were more than competitive in all three opening-segment doubles sets, but came away on the short end of all three.

In No. 1 spot, Lourenco/Carpenter – only a three days after the tremendous disappointment of missing out on a trip to state non-team doubles next week by a razor-thin margin – dropped behind Harrisonville’s state-bound top two singles players – Morgan Evans and Abigail Overbay – and finished with a 5-8 defeat.

No. 2 doubles saw Chillicothe’s other two non-seniors – sophomores Rylee Washburn and Izzy Garr – lose to HHS’ District 13 doubles champions combo of Elizabeth Allen and Kayleigh Norris by a respectable 4-8 count.

At No. 3, Lady Hornets seniors Olivia Anderson and Audrey Snider, who had delivered critical district-finals victories in both doubles and singles at Trenton the week before, came closest to giving Chillicothe at least one win out of doubles. Needing to win the 14th game to square the tight set at 7-7, they were defeated in it by Macie Collins and Brianna Glover, delivering Harrisonville an 8-6 win and a sweep of doubles.

As play shifted to singles play, Chillicothe – needing to somehow win five of the six best-of-3-sets matches – was against monumental odds, considering Harrisonville’s Evans and Overbay already held tickets to the non-team state tourney in singles.

The Lady Hornets gave it a great try.

At No. 6, Garr raced through Taylor Jennings 6-1, 6-2 to get CHS on the board with a win.

At No. 1, while unable to topple Evans, Carpenter gave a strong account of herself and showcased the potential for a very good senior season in 2022 by battling to a 3-6, 4-6 loss in which winning just of couple of games that ended up going to her foe could have had the match up for grabs at the very end.

Now with no margin for error, Chillicothe had both Washburn at No. 2 spot and Lourenco at No. 3 involved in matches that, as they wound down, were both winnable.

Lourenco, in fact, was in solid control of her match against Collins, having won the first set 6-3 and leading the second 5-2.

Washburn, meanwhile, had gone toe to toe, point for point with the state-bound Overbay, losing the first set on a best-of-12-points tiebreaker 6-7 (6) and being locked in a similar “death struggle” for the second set.

Even as Lourenco headed into the potential final game of her second set and match, Washburn and her foe reached another 6-6 stalemate after the prescribed 12 games of theirs, sending it to a tiebreaker, as well. If Washburn could prevail in it and claim the second set, the match would go to a long, best-of-18-points tiebreaker “game” that would decide the No. 2 position winner.

Just as in the first-set tiebreaker, the second was close with Overbay holding a 6-5 lead through 11 points. If she won the next point, the match was hers and the team match was Harrisonville’s; if Washburn won it, this tiebreaker – like that in the first set – would itself go into the tennis equivalent of overtime.

At the same time, Lourenco was with a couple of points of winning the No. 3 second set and match, meaning a successful late push by Washburn could – rather suddenly – close the team score to 4-3 with the Nos. 4 and 5 position sets still to be settle.

However, unfortunately for CHS, just as Lourenco was finishing off her 6-3, 6-2 triumph at No. 3, that 12th point of the No. 2 second-set tiebreaker was captured by the Harrisonville player. That gave her the set at 7-6 (5) and the match in straight games and HHS the team victory, 5-2.

By Missouri State High School Activities Association regulations, once the team result was finalized, all other incomplete action was halted and left unfinished.

While not able to advance to the quarterfinals-round match against Bishop LeBlond later Tuesday – LeBlond had defeated Chillicothe 5-0 in an abbreviated, rainout-makeup match late in September and would have been a near-prohibitive favorite to deal CHS another defeat, the Lady Hornets both showed this year’s team – with its battling spirit and resilience – to be worthy of owning the distinction of being district champions, even though its overall record was spotty, and to have a promising future with the projected return next fall of its top two individual players and Garr’s significant improvement through the season that suggests she has the potential to be a solid top-half member of next year’s singles lineup.

If some of this season’s junior-varsity players upgrade their skills over the next 10 months or an incoming freshman or two or someone who wasn’t out for the sport this season can be found, another fine season or even better in 2022 looks well within the realm of possibility.