In the Class 2 quarterfinals of the girls singles tennis tournament, No. 1 Blue Springs player Caitlyn Sporing was teetering dangerously close to finishing the season the same way she did her sophomore year.
Last year, Sporing took fifth overall, and a loss in the quarterfinals would mean that would be as high as she could finish. The junior dropped the first set to Erin Davis of Lafayette-Wildwood, but ended up rallying for a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win.
That victory helped Sporing earn a career best fourth-place finish at state. She had the best finish of any player in the Eastern Jackson County, which helped her earn The Examiner’s Girls Tennis Player of the Year award for the second year in a row.
She ended up falling to state runner-up Alyson Piskulic of Park Hill South in the semifinals 6-4, 6-1, before ending her season by falling in the third-place match to Ella Kinder of Rockwood Summit.
“I had a pretty good season,” Sporing said. “It wasn’t the finish I wanted at state, but there is room to improve next year.
Sporing, who finished 21-3, including the two losses at state, said she knew it would be an uphill climb to become a state champion, but she had aimed to place second or third. Her journey to the final four wasn’t easy. She had to play one of the top players in the Kansas City area, Lee’s Summit West’s Pranathi Gannavaram, in the sectional round and won 6-0, 6-0. Then she had that tough state quarterfinal match against Davis.
“At state, my first match was a walk in the park. Then after that, it got a lot harder,” she said. “The match to get to state was memorable for me. I was expecting it to be a lot harder than it was. That was the turning point to get me excited for state.”
Added Blue Springs girls coach Jody McClain: “(Sporing) really came to play in sectionals. Every shot was right next to line. She had that match before she even walked out there. She totally took (Gannavaram) out of her game.”
The junior worked hard in the offseason with her summer club to improve her performance for the state tournament. She worked on hitting new shots and sustaining longer rallies. And the improvement was apparent to McClain since the beginning of the season.
“She hit the ball a lot harder this year than last year,” McClain said. “And she added more shots. She’s willing to come to the net and volley more than she did a year ago.
“She’s stronger, she’s been weightlifting, she moves better. She has a lot more confidence in her game in singles and doubles and has matured.”
It also helps when Sporing has talented teammates to practice with like sophomore Bentley Walters and freshman Allie Brown. Walters made it to the sectional round, while Brown was a newcomer who impressed McClain and the rest of the team right away.
Walters, who is Sporing’s doubles partner, ended up facing Sporing in the finals of the Class 2 District 14 singles tournament and fell 6-0, 6-3.
“I never let Bentley beat me,” Sporing said with a smile.
Sporing plans on working even harder this offseason and will be entering singles tournaments. After all, she has even higher expectations for herself in her senior year, including getting an offer from a Division I college program.
“My goal is to win state,” Sporing said. “We’ll have to see how that goes. I am going to be working on my game every day.”
Added McClain: “She also wants to go to college, and that’s motivation enough for her to do really well next year so she can get into a good college.”