ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Hillsboro tennis team finished a strong third at the Sterling Invitational Thursday.
The Trojans, with 17 team points, trailed only Conway Springs with 26 points and Claflin with 23-two schools with perennially strong programs, according to coach Lynn Wiebe.
“I felt fairly good about our performance at Sterling,” she said. “We are continuing to increase our intensity in practice and it seemed as though we carried that into our matches at Sterling better than we have in past years.”
Trailing Hillsboro were Kingman and St. John, who tied for fourth with 12 points, Hutchinson Trinity 11, Greensburg 8 and Sterling 3.
The Trojans got their highest finish in No. 2 doubles, where Kelli Just and Emily Railsback just missed a first-place finish with a 8-9 loss to Claflin. The outcome was determined by a 2-7 score in the tie-breaker.
The Trojan duo reached the title match with an 8-1 win over St. John and an 8-3 semifinals victory over the team from Conway Springs.
“Kelli and Emily played a very good all day long,” Wiebe said. “They communicated well and played with a new intensity that I hadn’t seen in them before.”
The Trojans’ next-best finish came in No. 1 doubles, where Kelsey Kaufman and Erin Wiebe won the third-place game over Claflin, 9-7. The pair began the day with an 8-4 win over Sterling, but then dropped a 1-8 decision to Conway in the semifinals.
“The first two matches of the day they seemed to play to the level of their competition, but picked things up a couple of notches in their final match against Claflin,” Wiebe said.
Danielle Hagen placed fourth in No. 2 singles. The sophomore won her opening match over Greensburg, 8-6, then lost in the semifinals to Conway Springs, 2-8, and to Hutch Trinity by an identical score in the battle for third.
“Danielle played a very good first-tournament match,” Wiebe said. “After getting off to a slow start, she came back and won the next five games.”
In No. 1 singles, Gina Andrews finished sixth. The junior lost a close opening match to Kingman, 9-7, then came back in the consolation bracket to beat St. John, 6-8, before losing to Hutch Trinity, 0-8, in the battle for fifth.
“Gina met up with some tough competition,” Wiebe said.
Despite the strong team finish, Wiebe felt her team has the potential for more.
“We still had our times that we seemed flat and just were not as focused and intense as we needed to be,” she said. “However, at one time or another throughout the day, all the girls showed the ability to play at a higher level than in the past.
“We simply need to work on continuing to stay focused and keep our intensity level up at all times, regardless of the level of competition we are up against.”
In their season opener Sept. 2, the Trojans, with two teams entered, finished fourth and eighth at the Hillsboro Invitational.
A complete report of that event appears in this week’s Free Press Extra, on newsstands through Thursday afternoon.
Coming-The Trojans will be in Lindsborg Thursday for a meet that begins at 3 p.m., then the team will turn around and travel to Hesston on Saturday for a meet scheduled for a 9 a.m. start.