Tennis can be a maddening game on a windy day. And with a gale-force breeze howling across the Baumgardner Park courts Wednesday, it became plenty maddening for Caitlyn Sporing and her Blue Springs teammates.
During her singles and doubles matches against Grain Valley in the Class 2 District 14 team final, Sporing watched shots that would normally land near the baseline sail to the fence. Or just hover in the air.
“The ball will be going in and all of a sudden the wind will grab it and it’ll be gone,” Sporing said. “It really messes with your head, obviously, because you know your shots are good and the wind plays with them.”
Sporing, of course, has played in windy conditions before, as have most of the Wildcats. Once they got used to it, they settled in for a 5-1 victory and a second consecutive district team championship.
And it definitely wasn’t a breeze, not with a south wind with 30-plus mph gusts. Players had to either adjust to a strong tailwind or battle a stiff headwind. Even with the depth and experience on her squad, Blue Springs coach Jody McClain said she was concerned with how well the Wildcats would handle it.
“I had the girls hit earlier so they could get a feel from both sides,” McClain said. “Still, this was probably the most wind that we’d seen all season. So it had kind of an equalizing effect.”
It certainly did in doubles, in which Blue Springs struggled to take two of the three matches. Bentley Walters and Allie Brown cruised to an 8-1 victory over Ryan Deaton and Kendra Sibert in No. 1 doubles, but Sporing and Malina McGaw needed a 7-2 tiebreaker for a 9-8 win over Alyssa Owens and Maddie Shields at No. 2.
In No. 3 doubles, Grain Valley scored its lone victory when Bailey McKay and Mackensie Wagner beat Blue Springs’ Jenna Pope and Dani Madison 8-7 with a 7-5 tiebreaker. When Blue Springs downed Grain Valley 7-2 last month, neither doubles match was that close.
“I was pretty happy with the doubles,” Grain Valley coach Blake Thorne said. “When we played them during the regular season (McKay and Wagner) lost 8-2. They had a lot better showing today.”
Grain Valley (13-4) couldn’t match Blue Springs’ strength in singles. Walters beat Sibert 6-0, 6-1 in No. 2 singles, Brown downed Owens 6-2, 6-0 in No. 3 singles and Sporing clinched the victory with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Deaton at No. 1.
Sporing, Walters and Brown are all year-round, USTA-ranked players, and McClain credited that with helping them overcome the unusually hot and windy October day.
“They play tournaments in Oklahoma and Iowa; they travel and play outdoors a lot,” McClain said. “They’re used to playing in hot, windy conditions.”
After winning a second straight district title, Blue Springs (10-4) will meet District 13 champion Lee’s Summit West in the team sectionals Oct. 13.