Briggs puts LHS tennis back on the state scene
Emporia With temperatures in the upper 80s and not a cloud in the sky, a hot fall sun scorched the Emporia High School tennis courts and burned Amy Briggs' face to a bright red.
Still, the sun didn't faze Briggs. Instead, the Lansing High sophomore's biggest obstacles on Thursday at the Class 5A regional tennis tournament were a 30-mile-per-hour wind and Emporia's Amanda Roberts.
Briggs and Roberts met in a midday quarterfinal match. At stake was a spot in the state tournament.
Briggs won the two-hour match, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5, but she admitted it was a much more difficult task than she imagined it'd be. In addition to being accustomed to playing single set matches, Briggs said the wind was a constant nuisance.
"You had to adjust each time you switched sides because on both sides it was different," she said. "It made shots crazy."
Both players had trouble adjusting back and forth between serving into the wind and returning shots with the heavy gusts at their back. Briggs fell behind 2-1 in the first set before winning five straight games to take the set.
Roberts responded in the second set, however. She shook off a 2-2 tie and won four straight games to even the match at one set apiece.
Briggs built a 3-1 lead in the decisive third set, but then the wind gave her trouble. She sent shots just a bit long and just a bit wide. Meanwhile, Roberts varied her shot selection and kept Briggs on the run. Eventually Roberts rallied for a 5-4 lead, but that's when Briggs regrouped and took charge.
"There are times when you look at a sophomore and a lot of people will say 'not enough experience,'" LHS coach Rachel Elkins said. "I always talk about either copper or steel. She's steel. She don't bend much."
She won four straight points to take the next game and even the match. Then she broke Roberts' serve for a 6-5 lead. Briggs built a 40-30 lead in the final game, but she was forced to weather the longest volley of the day before putting away the final point and securing a state berth.
"You know what she said?" Elkins said of her meeting with Briggs before the final game. "She said, 'I'm just gonna win.'"
The match with Roberts was exhausting, but Briggs said that made her appreciate the accomplishment even more.
"It made me have to play really hard just to go to state," she said. "And it's worth it."
Prior to beating Roberts, Briggs won a first-round match against Bonner Springs' Jessica Mitchell, 6-0, 6-0.
An exhausted Briggs lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Elizabeth Kresie of Topeka West, 6-1, 6-1. Briggs then came back to win the third-place match against West's Rafi Mayer, 6-1, 6-4.
Briggs is the first LHS girl in more than a decade to advance to the tennis state tournament, which will take place Friday and Saturday at Kossover Tennis Center in Topeka. She also is the first state qualifier for third-year coach Elkins.
Lansing nearly had a few more state qualifiers. Seniors Christine Cordes and Lauren Elkins fell in the quarterfinals of the doubles bracket, 6-1, 6-0, to the eventual fourth-place finishers from Topeka Seaman.
In other LHS matches, sophomore Ashley Harrington lost in the first round of the singles bracket to Sierra Conte of Highland Park, 6-3, 6-4, and sophomores Katelyn Griffen and Briana Hall lost in the first round of the doubles bracket to the regional runners-up from Shawnee Heights, 6-0, 6-0.