Sometimes it just takes a little extra effort to succeed. For the Greenback’s state doubles team of Lauren McClain and Dani Williams, it took two trips, four days, 700 miles, and six hard-fought matches against the best competition in the state to bring home a medal from the 2012 KSHSAA 4A State Tennis Tournament.
Hosted by Baldwin at Emporia, the tournament was scheduled to play out on Friday and Saturday, October 12 and 13.
With two rain delays on Friday and the complete cancellation of Saturday, the tournament took Sunday afternoon and a full day on Monday to conclude. Through it all, the Pratt duo gave their best effort to go 3-3 and place 10th in a deep feld of talent.
Friday’s action started late due to rain. While scheduled at 11:30, play was delayed until 1:30 while the courts dried. First on McClain and Williams’ radar was a Fort Scott team.
The Pratt girls jumped out to a quick 6-0 win in the first set, then saw things tighten up a bit in the second at 3-2 before polishing them off with a 6-2 second set.
“It was a good first round match for Lauren and Dani,” said Kahmeyer. “I was pleased with how the girls jumped out strong.”
The second round proved to be a pivotal moment for McClain and Williams as they entered as underdogs to a strong 26-10 McPherson team that placed 2nd in the McPherson regional.
Using strong serves and volleys, the McPherson team pulled ahead to take the first set at 6-2. While many of the games went to deuce, the Pratt girls found themselves on the losing end of most of the critical game points.
Looking at a fresh start in the second set, McClain and Williams came alive to turn the tables and win 6-3. In the first three rounds at state, an all-important “super tie-breaker” is played when teams split sets.
It’s basically a race to see which team can win 10 points by a margin of two. Falling behind 1-3, the Pratt pair evened things at 5-all, then took a 7-5 lead which improved to 9-6, then tightened at 9-8. Finally stringing together two points, McClain and Williams sealed the deal on the upset with a 10-8 victory.
“This was the big moment for Lauren and Dani,” enthused Kahmeyer. “I don’t think many coaches saw this coming and I know the McPherson girls didn’t. It was a gutsy win that guaranteed the girls of at least 12th place and a medal.”
The quarterfinals, played on Sunday afternoon, would find the girls facing the #1 seed in the tournament.
Entering state with a record of 30-2, Myers & Pelter of Topeka Hayden jumped out to a quick 6-1 lead before McClain and Williams battled back in the second. The Greenbacks were able to force a 3-all tie before succumbing to the stronger team at 3-6.
Page 2 of 2 - Finding themselves on the backside of the bracket on Monday, the girls warmed up at 2 p.m. only to have to wait three-and-a-half hours to play their next match.
The downtime proved to be disadvantageous when they finally took to the courts against a familiar foe in Hesston’s Shogren and Weaver and lost 4-9.
“Facing Hesston is tough enough,” said Kahmeyer. “They’re a very good team with strong serves and commanding net play. What I hadn’t planned on was the three-and-a-half hour wait to play them. With only ten minutes to warm up, it’s tough to get the rhythm back and we never really did.”
Bumped to the play-in matches for 9th, McClain and Williams saw another familiar opponent in Winfield’s Smith & Mankoski. The Pratt girls fell behind early, only to surge in the second half of the set to win 9-6.
In their final action at state, the Greenbacks would face a tough 23-4 Wamego team. Again falling behind in the early games, McClain and Williams brought it back to a 5-all tie, then took a 6-5 lead only to hit a wall and drop the match 6-9.
In summing up their day, Kahmeyer said, “It’s a bit of a downer to lose that last match. In the end, we just ran out of steam, but I’m still extremely proud of Lauren and Dani.”
“ The last time we placed anyone at state was 2006, so we’ve seen six years of being the bridesmaids,” Kahmeyer continued. “The level of competition has only increased over the years, so this was a huge accomplishment for Lauren, Dani and all the rest of the team.”