Surviving the marathon: Wildcats edge Eagles in close match

By Bill Althaus
Blue Springs No. 1 singles player Allie Brown reaches for a backhand return in Monday's match against Grain Valley's Chelsea Gorden at Baumgardner Park. Brown claimed an 8-2 win to help the Wildcats claim a 5-4 victory.

As Molly Hocker walked off a tennis court at Baumgardner Park, the Blue Springs sophomore accepted congratulatory air high-fives and racket tips from her Wildcat teammates.

She had just claimed an 8-2 victory over Grain Valley’s Bailey Jinkens in their No. 4 singles match to help the Wildcats claim a hard-fought 5-4 victory over the Eagles in a 3-hour, 22-minute marathon Monday afternoon.

“I had no idea this was the match that won it for us,” said Hocker, who teamed with Azure Radford for a 9-2 No. 2 doubles win over Kennedi McCord and Emma Thiessen.

“We won all three doubles matches, even though they were all close, and that helped us win today. Grain Valley is such a great team and so competitive and they really came back and did well in singles.”

Freshman Finley LaForge topped Malina McGaw 8-2 at No. 2 singles while another freshman, Thiessen, who has just been playing tennis for just three months, defeated Kamryn Bush 8-4 at No. 5 singles.

Grain Valley's Finley LaForg hits a forehand return in her No. 2 singles match with Blue Springs' Malina McGaw Monday. LaForge won 8-2 but Blue Springs claimed a 5-4 team win.

Kyla Hood’s 8-5 win over Blue Springs’ Grace Deaton gave the Eagles some singles momentum that nearly cost the Wildcats a chance at victory.

“I think this goes to show how important doubles are,” Eagles coach Randy Draper said. “They win 9-7, 9-7, 9-8 with a 7-4 tiebreaker and those are three extremely close matches. But you know what I like about a match like this against a team like Blue Springs? Everyone benefits. We certainly benefited from all our close matches and I’d like to think they benefited, too.”

Blue Springs’ No. 1 singles player Allie Brown defeated Chelsea Gorden 8-2 and teamed with Bush to get past Gorden and LaForge 9-8 (7-4) in No. 1 doubles play.

Grain Valley's Finley LaForge, left, and Chelsea Gorden bump rackets to celebrate a point in their No. 1 doubles match against Blue Springs' Allie Brown and Kamryn Bush Monday at Baumgardner Park. Brown and Bush claimed a 7-4 tiebreaker to win 9-8 as Blue Springs edged the Eagles 5-4.

Blue Springs coaches Shannon Cunningham and Jessica Sanders agreed with the veteran Eagles coach.

“There is a lot of pressure playing singles, and some of that pressure lightens up a little bit when you sweep doubles,” Sanders said. “Our girls really played well today, and so did Coach Draper’s. Matches like these are competitive and fun.”

Blue Springs' Malina McGaw awaits a serve from Grain Valley's Finley LaForge in No. 2 singles match Monday. LaForge won 8-2 but Blue Springs claimed a 5-4 team win.

After rain fell and canceled or postponed matches, Cunningham was just happy to see her team return to the court.

“I thought our girls really played well today,” Cunningham said, “and you could see just how much fun it was for them to be back with their teammates, cheering for each other and just enjoying all aspects of the match.”

Hocker said being with her teammates was as much fun as her singles and doubles victories.

“I love to play tennis and I love my teammates,” Hocker said. “I’m just a sophomore, so hopefully this is the start of a long and successful tennis career at Blue Springs.”

Grain Valley's Chelsea Gorden hits a forehand return in her No. 1 singles match against Blue Springs' Allie Brown Monday. Brown won 8-2 to help Blue Springs to a 5-4 win.