LHS finishes second at Wildcat Invitational
Briggs, Griffen and Hall nab third-place finishes
Less than two weeks remain until the regional tournament, and the Lansing High tennis team is playing with a sense of urgency that implies the Lions have some serious postseason expectations this year.
The Lions have routinely landed players in the medal matches at tournaments all season, and Saturday was no exception at the Wildcat Invitational at De Soto High School. LHS placed second out of eight teams with 33 points - De Soto was the team champion with 46 points - and had third-place finishers in both singles and doubles.
Sophomore Amy Briggs placed third in singles with a 3-1 record, and sophomores Katelyn Griffen and Briana Hall finished third in doubles with a 3-1 mark. In addition, seniors Lauren Elkins and Christine Cordes placed fifth in doubles by winning four of their five matches. Sophomore Ashley Harrington also competed in singles and posted a 1-2 record.
LHS coach Rachel Elkins said the best thing about the De Soto tournament is that it provides players the opportunity to participate in a bracket-style event prior to the regional tournament.
"It's good for them to experience that before the postseason," she said. "The only difference is that you can go to the back side of the bracket here, whereas at regionals you can't do that because it's single-elimination."
Briggs snagged the No. 2 seed and only missed out on the No. 1 seed because she had a head-to-head loss to Mill Valley's Lindsey Buenger earlier in the season. Briggs lived up to her seed with solid play throughout the day. She defeated Natalie Edwards of Leavenworth, 8-1, in the first round and then cruised to an 8-0 victory over Lauren Heinen of Gardner-Edgerton in round two. After falling to eventual champion Hannah Konetzni of De Soto in the semifinals, 8-6, Briggs squared off with Buenger in the consolation finals and won by an 8-3 decision.
"Amy really played some good tennis all day," Elkins said. "And beating (Buenger) will help her because there's a regular-season direct win against somebody that we'll probably see at regionals."
Harrington finished out of the medals, but not for a lack of effort. Instead, she simply had a tough draw in the bracket. She opened with Konetzni, the tournament champion, and lost 8-1. Then she knocked off Sarah Wittenberg of Leavenworth, 8-5, before falling to fifth-place finisher Brie Alholm of Kansas City Christian, 8-4, in a hard-fought match that featured lots of long volleys.
"Ashley came off the court saying 'that's the way I like to play tennis,'" Elkins said of the match with Alholm.
Griffen and Hall earned the No. 2 seed in doubles based on their overall record and direct wins, and they used the seeding to their advantage with a pair of comfy early victories. They defeated Charra Doherty and Brittney Smith of De Soto, 8-2, in the first round. After that came an 8-3 victory over Yulia Stevens and Liz Gittemier of KC Christian. If not for an 8-2 setback to Bonner Springs' Felicia Leipard and Chelsea Crouch in the semifinals, the Lansing duo would've played for the championship.
"They were playing some rally tennis, and then they came into a whole different scenario (against Bonner) and they didn't adjust," Elkins said.
The loss sent Griffen and Hall into the third-place match, and their opponents from KC Christian took an injury default.
Elkins said the sophomore pair is getting stronger by the match, and she said communication has been the key.
"They're just in sync with each other," she said. "they don't have the most polished skills; they're still learning at the net; but they have the important piece fixed, and that's communication. That's why they play so well. They know each other's game and they're starting to jell."
Cordes and Lauren Elkins teamed up for the first time all season and the opened the tournament strong with an 8-1 victory over Amanda Allen and Paige Berry of Gardner-Edgerton. After falling 8-1 to tournament champions Rebekah Gulley and Hana Lindbloom of De Soto, Cordes and Elkins responded with three straight victories to close out the tournament. They beat Kelsey Stanbrough and Ashley Espinoza of Bonner Springs, 8-1, and rolled to an 8-2 decision against Kelsey George and Ali Eisemberg of Gardner before holding on for an 8-5 win against Ciara Hartley and Vanessa McKinney of Leavenworth.
Lansing next plays at 4 p.m. today at Harmon Park against Kansas City Christian.