After watching an array of powerful serves, impressive forehands, well-placed backhands and skillful drop shots by Blue Springs’ Caitlyn Sporing, Bentley Walters and Allie Brown Tuesday, Blue Springs South coach Jake Estep made a declaration about the Wildcats’ top half of the lineup.
“That’s one of the best top three in the area,” he said.
The crowd at South who witnessed Blue Springs’ 6-3 win would be hard-pressed to disagree.
Sporing, Walters and Brown dominated their singles matches and Sporing and Walters teamed up for an 8-1 win in No. 1 doubles as the trio helped lead the way for the Wildcats’ first win over their rival this decade.
“It feels awesome to get this victory,” said Sporing, a junior who finished fifth in singles at state last fall and was The Examiner’s 2016 Girls Tennis Player of the Year. “In the district tournament last year they beat us by one match, so we really wanted this one today.”
Walters, a sophomore who qualified for state last year in singles, noted it’s important for the Blue Springs program and athletic department to win the rivalry match.
“A lot of the other sports have beat South, so it’s nice for us to do it in girls tennis since we haven’t done it in so long,” she said. “We were close last year in districts, so to come back and win (Tuesday) feels good for everyone.”
Sporing and Walters opened the dual with an 8-1 win at No. 1 doubles, with Brown combining with senior Mary Martell for an 8-4 win at No. 2 doubles.
In singles, the top three Wildcats only dropped a combined three games, with Sporing winning 6-0, 6-0 at No. 1, Walters claiming a 6-0, 6-2 win at No. 2 and Brown taking an easy 6-0, 6-1 win at No. 3.
“I can see the progression (from last year) in Caitlyn and Bentley,” Wildcats coach Jody McClain said. “They both played all summer, and when you have them at the top of your lineup and playing No. 1 doubles, that gives you a really good shot at three wins. Then Allie is a boon to the team coming in as a freshman who is as talented as she is.”
Junior Dani Madison gutted-out a 7-5, 2-6, 10-5 tiebreaker win at No. 5 singles for Blue Springs’ sixth win.
“Dani and the other girls at the bottom of the lineup, they know they still need to do their job because all the individual wins translate to a team win,” said McClain, in her second season as the Blue Springs girls coach. “The girls are responding well, and listening, and they’ve bought into my philosophy of ‘one more ball over the net,’ and try to run everything down.”
As someone who coached the Blue Springs boys program for nearly a decade, McClain knows the significance of winning this rivalry.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve beaten them and I know the girls are happy,” she said. “It gives them more confidence for the rest of the year. Sometimes it’s hard playing South because the girls know each other and are all friends and it’s harder to play against your friend than an unknown person.”
For the Jaguars, Grace Allen won 6-2, 6-3 at No. 4 singles, and Mikaela Haro took a 6-1, 6-2 win at No. 6 singles and combined with Peyton Caldwell for an 8-4 win at No. 3 doubles.
“We knew they were going to come in and be a tough battle for us,” Estep said. “For as young a team as we are, to play a team like that who is that strong up top and to compete and push them is pretty impressive. There were two matches that were close and we could have flipped. We’re going to use this moving forward to get where we want to be.”