Five things to watch at Kansas girls tennis regional tournaments
Saturday at various sites
1. Steffes tries to stay perfect
As a freshman, Blue Valley’s Morgan Steffes finished third at the Kansas 5A state tournament, but the Tigers have since made the jump to 6A. Steffes, now a sophomore, heads to the Olathe South regional tournament, which is being played at Lawrence High School, with a sparkling 14-0 record and will try to keep that momentum rolling. She is a heavy favorite, but the bigger question is whether Blue Valley can qualify its entire team, including Alexa Tieful in singles and Jessie Alexander and Mandy Novicoff in doubles, in its first season returning to the state’s largest classification. The Tigers placed fourth in 5A last fall.
2. Sunflower, EKL powers to clash
Sunflower League dynasty Shawnee Mission East and perennial East Kansas League power Blue Valley North (which claimed the league crown last Saturday) are expected to dominate the other Kansas 6A regional, which will be played Saturday at Harmon Park in Prairie Village. It’s a good bet that Lancers sophomore Elizabeth Barnickel and Mustangs senior Shea Flanagan meet for the singles final. The good news for the remaining teams in the SM West regional — Olathe North, Olathe Northwest, SM North, SM Northwest and the host Vikings — is that there’s only seven teams at the meet, providing a little less competition than other regionals for the additional six singles and six doubles spots at state.
3. Doubles strategy
Fresh off an EKL doubles championship, Blue Valley Northwest senior Jennifer Lowe and sophomore Lindsay Haight begin a quest to improve on last season’s third-place finish at the Kansas 6A state meet. The first step will be securing an opening-round bye at state, which won’t be a given with the EKL runners-up – Blue Valley West junior Ariel Mittleman and sophomore Katie Fries, who dropped a 5-7, 6-2, 10-6 decision in the league final last week – and Sunflower League runners-up, Olathe East senior Hannah Heaton and junior Mollie Magee, who are also eyeing a free pass into the second round at state.
4. SM East’s sister act
Teamed with Mollie Cooper, SM East senior Elizabeth Wilcox helped win the last two Kansas 6A state doubles title. The duo went 45-1 together during that span. Now, she’s partnered with her sister, sophomore Stephanie Wilcox. The Wilcox girls are 19-2 this season and should be the top regional seed and a shoo-in for a state berth. In fact, the Wilcox’s biggest competition might come from their Lancer teammates, junior Meredith Shackelford and freshman Aidan Epstein, who won the Sunflower League No. 2 doubles title last week.
5. Thunder faces tougher road in 5A
St. James finished second at the Kansas 4A state meet last season, but without singles runner-up Bree Honer, who graduated, it’ll be a challenge to duplicate that success. Sophomore Grace Shaffer, who was third in 4A as a freshman, returns, but the Thunder has moved up a classification and will battle much tougher competition beginning with the regional meet on Saturday at Indian Creek Recreation Center, a meet that includes host St. Thomas Aquinas, Bishop Miege and SM South, which has dropped from the 6A ranks.
| Tod Palmer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tod Palmer, <a href="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>