Lee’s Summit North coach Stu Reece said he figured it would take an unparalleled effort from his Broncos to upend perennial power Columbia Rock Bridge in last Thursday’s finals of the Class 2 team state tennis tournament.
Not only did the Broncos put together an impressive set of wins to beat the Bruins 5-3 and capture the school’s first state title in the sport, but over the next two days their top doubles team of Logan Morrissey and Camryn Parnell returned to the courts at Springfield’s Cooper Tennis Complex and almost brought home another state title.
Morrissey and Parnell nearly forced a third set before dropping a 6-0, 7-6 (7-5) decision to Kirkwood’s Sarah Stuhlmann and Bridget Mayfield in last Saturday’s doubles state championship match, finishing their season 27-3, with one other loss coming to a Kansas state champion tandem.
Parnell said the team state championship, which capped a 22-1 campaign, meant a little more.
“It was more special, just because we’d never done that before,” she said, referring to last year’s third-place team finish. “In the finals, it was really nerve-wracking for us. It seemed like every singles match went to the third set.”
Parnell played the only one of six singles matches that didn’t go to three sets, defeating Sophi Farid 6-3, 6-4 at No. 2. Morrissey edged past Phoebe Boeschen in a third-set tiebreaker, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5) at No. 1, and other singles wins came in comeback fashion from Jenny Krause over Tess Lovig (3-6, 7-5, 6-2) and Beta Lear over Ronni Farid (4-6, 6-4, 6-2). Vilune Sestokaite won a first-set tiebreaker before falling, and Alyson Moore also lasted three sets.
Reece pointed out that Krause’s Rock Bridge win came over a previously undefeated player.
“I tried to switch up my shots,” Krause said, “and Camryn (who had already won) was cheering me on, which made the girl really annoyed.”
Just as they had done against Park Hill South in sectional play and Jefferson City in Thursday morning’s semifinals, Morrissey and Parnell provided the clinching win by downing Boeschen and Sophi Farid in twin 6-4 sets.
Singles wins against Jefferson City came from Morrissey, Sestokaite, Krause and Moore (all in two sets), while Parnell fell 7-5, 7-6 (10-8), leaving her and Morrissey to clinch with a 6-0, 6-4 doubles match.
Even with their own match going on in a high-pressure environment, Lear said she and Krause couldn’t help but notice what was happening on surrounding courts against Rock Bridge.
“We were playing doubles, and we kept looking over at their court (Morrissey and Parnell) and cheering even though we were losing,” Lear said.
“One of the neatest aspects of winning the team championship was I knew it was going to take every single player playing the best match of their careers,” Reece said, “and they did that.”
Lear and Krause’s 6-3, 6-3 loss didn’t diminish Reece’s assertion, and even if he didn’t say it beforehand, the girls said they understood what was needed against Rock Bridge, which had been to the last three state finals and won twice.
“We knew it was going to be a dogfight,” Parnell said.
Added Sestokaite: “It felt good to take them out.”
Morrissey finished her singles season 14-4, while Parnell went 16-5, Sestokaite 16-5, Krause (the team’s “silent assassin, Reece said) 28-3, Moore 18-4 and Lear 19-10. In doubles play Sestokaite had a 23-5 record, Krause 17-3 and Moore 22-6. Alexandra Mesias went 11-1 in varsity singles in 18-0 in junior varsity play, helping the JV to its third-consecutive unbeaten season (13-0), and Sarah Welsh also saw the occasional varsity match.
“Sarah and Alex, the whole season they’ve been cheering so hard for us,” Lear said.
Reece said putting together and sometimes shuffling his doubles teams wasn’t a matter of pairing the best possible players, but rather who played well together.
“We threw fire and ice together,” he said, referring to Sestokaite and Moore, the lone varsity seniors, “and created a tornado.”
“They were all very comfortable with each other.”
Reece said his players – who have compiled a collective 4.0 GPA, he said – often provided each other with their best competition.
“They challenged each other in practices all year long,” he said. “Some of the most intense tennis they played was with nobody watching, no other team there. As the saying goes, iron sharpens iron, and that’s definitely true with these girls.”
Even with one state championship medal in tow, Morrissey said there was no relaxing in the doubles tournament the next day.
“We obviously wanted to do better than last year,” she said, referring to 2012’s sixth-place finish.
That they did, blasting past Incarnate Word’s Katie Winkler and Jessica Stumpf (6-1, 6-0) and St. Joseph’s Academy’s Mary Burger and Olivia Conway (6-1, 6-0) on Friday and Liberty’s Cassidy Paul and Gretchen Ohlhausen (6-0, 6-1) in Saturday’s semifinals before falling in the finals.
Reece said he could tell Morrissey and Parnell were ticketed for a big finish this season when they captured the Tournament of Champions in Wichita.
“They really dominated the competition,” he said. “After watching that performance, I knew they were headed for a remarkable season.”
“When we needed them at their best, they always delivered.”