When it comes to league championships, it’s been a long, dry spell for Pratt High tennis, but as of last Saturday, the drought is over. The last league title was nearly a decade ago when the Greenbacks wore the MSAA crown in 2004. After joining the Central Kansas League in 2010, the competition got even deeper with perennial powerhouses Hesston, Smoky Valley, and Sterling.
After a host of second and third place finishes, the Greenbacks finally put it together to stand atop the victor’s podium. It took a concerted team effort and some help from other teams, but at the end of a chilly and challenging day, the Greenbacks were champions.
Amid temperatures in the low 40s and a stiff 20-mph breeze, the 61 girls from 11 CKL teams hit the courts at 9:30 a.m. and concluded the 76th match over eight hours later.
Pratt seized the crown with 80 points with Sterling close on its heels with 75. Hesston and Hoisington tied for 3rd with 70, followed by Smoky Valley (62), Larned (49), Hillsboro (48), Lyons (37), Haven (32), Nickerson (15), and Kingman (10).
The doubles teams again led the charge by winning both the #1 and #2 flights. At the #1 spot, seniors Lauren McClain and Dani Williams earned the top seed and cruised to a relatively easy title. After a first-round bye, the pair dispatched Lyons 9-1, Sterling 6-2, 6-1, and Haven 6-3, 6-0. After Williams returned from injury late to join McClain, the duo sports an undefeated 10-0 record going into regionals.
“It was a joy to watch Lauren and Dani play,” said coach Larry Kahmeyer. “After a few games, they simply caught on fire, dominating their final matches. Lauren was razor-sharp with her groundstrokes and Dani was roaming back and forth at the net, putting volleys away. Their skills dovetail so well and I hope they can carry that level of play into regionals!”
Juniors Allicia Hall and Elee Hampton entered the bracket as the second seed, but wouldn’t settle and won out to claim Pratt’s second doubles crown. After a first-round bye, the girls defeated Hoisington 9-3, Hesston 6-4, 7-5, and Smoky Valley 6-2, 6-4.
“The top four teams in the #2 flight were pretty closely matched,” explained Kahmeyer.” I knew the girls had a shot at the title and they hung tough all day long to realize it. The semi-final match against Hesston was the hardest, but they never faltered. Smoky Valley gave them a contest in the finals, but they were on a mission and wouldn’t be denied.”
Jade Hoover and Ellie Brehm, juniors, sealed the deal for the Greenbacks by placing high in the singles brackets and earning 30 tough points. Hoover earned the fourth seed, and after a first-round bye, had to face Larned’s tough fifth-seeded Jessi Johnson. Hoover fell behind early, then rallied to make it a contest, eventually falling 9-7. On the backside of the bracket, Hoover defeated Kingman 9-1, Nickerson 9-5, and Hesston to claim 5th.
Page 2 of 2 - Brehm had a tough first match in Roets from Smoky Valley. Getting off to a slow start in the cold, Brehm fell behind but made a match of it before succumbing 9-4. She then beat Nickerson 9-0, lost to Sterling 6-3, 6-0, then defeated Lyons 9-3 to claim 5th.
Of his singles players, Kahmeyer said, “Jade had a tough draw. There were two better match-ups in the quarterfinals where she might have reached the semis, but that’s just the way it draws out sometimes. It was a deep pool of talent; she could’ve finished a spot higher with a different path, but did exactly what she needed to do. Playing in the cold with a new racket, Ellie got off to a slow start but found her form to go 2-2 and earn some critical points. Jade and Ellie should be very proud of their contributions to the team finish.”
With the CKL tournament concluding the regular season, the Greenbacks travel to Wellington on Friday and Saturday to battle it out at regionals for coveted tickets to state.