INDEPENDENCE -- Five members of Fort Scott High School's tennis team will be going to this weekend's Class 4A State Tournament at Emporia after qualifying from last weekend's Independence Regional.
Fort Scott finished third as a team behind champion Independence and runner-up Parsons. Seniors Michelle Buntain and Corina Harrison qualified for their second consecutive State Tournament in doubles while juniors Courtney Crain and Kenna Savage also qualified. This will be Crain's second State tourney, going as a freshman with Kalia Dancy in 2010. Freshman Jennifer Harrison qualified for her first State Tournament in singles.
"It was terrible conditions for tennis, but I was very proud of the way our girls competed in the Regional Tournament," Fort Scott Head Coach Lynn Barr said. "Saturday morning we were delayed starting for about an hour and half because the courts were wet from overnight rains and just were not dry enough to safely play. I have to commend the efforts made to get this tournament played. Lots of Indy folks went and got leaf blowers and fans to help dry the courts and there were a lot of parents, including some of the parents of our players, who were out on the court with leaf blowers and fans working to get the courts safe to play."
Buntain and Harrison have been paired together most of the time since their sophomore year. They are 20-6 this season and 56-29 overall in three years. They played two matches in last year's State tourney in Pratt.
They won their first match on Friday, 6-1, 6-0, over Chanute's Emily McCoach and Patricia Steventon. They lost to Bree Rogers of Kelsey Jump of Parsons in the next round, 4-6, 6-2 (10-5).
"The Chanute team played a very good match and again forced us out of the way we would prefer to play," Barr said. "We won the first set, but Chanute came back to take the second set and then took a hard fought match tiebreaker to take the match."
Crain and Savage (12-4) defeated Pittsburg's MaKayla Pichler and Jessica Curlee in the first round, 6-1, 6-2, then also lost a tie-breaker in the next round, 0-6, 6-3 (10-3).
"Courtney and Kenna opened with a solid win over Pittsburg's No. 1 team," Barr said. "In the second round, they faced a good Parsons team that came into the Regional as the No. 3 seed. We opened with a very strong first set, dominating the net. Parsons made some adjustments in the second set and came back to win that set and force the match into the match tiebreaker. Courtney and Kenna battled hard, but just couldn't pull out the win."
Saturday, Buntain and Harrison opened by sweeping Pittsburg's Emily Baden and Lakyn Long, 6-1, 6-1. Meanwhile, Crain and Savage swept Ottawa's Elise Bones and Elizabeth Seimears, 6-2, 6-0.
Those wins assured both Tiger doubles teams of a trip to State. They had to face each other in the fifth-place match. Buntain and Harrison won that, 6-1, 6-0.
The Fort Scott teams faced each other because everyone plays in one bracket in the post-season. The same applies to singles.
"Courtney and Kenna came out playing excellent doubles and took a decisive win against Ottawa to advance," Barr said. "Michelle and Corina faced a Pittsburg team that was playing well and very relaxed and we seemed a little tight at first. As the match progressed, we got a rhythm going and came away with a solid win.
"In the final match ... with the pressure off and knowing they had all advanced, the seniors played probably the best tennis of the weekend taking the win over their teammates."
Jennifer Harrison (17-5) opened singles play with a sweep of Chanute's Rebecca Wendt, also a freshman, 6-2, 6-4. She fell into the back side of the bracket with a 6-1, 6-4 loss to Parson's Malina Kipp, who was the Southeast Kansas League Tournament runner-up and went on to finish second in this tournament.
"Jennifer played well in that match, playing Kipp much tougher than she did in her earlier meetings with her, but came up a little short," Barr said.
Saturday, Harrison beat Labette County's Sami Brown, 6-0, 6-0, which gave her the State Tournament berth. She finished fifth by beating Chanute's Madison Wendt, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.
" Jennifer opened Saturday's play with a dominating performance against Brown," Barr said. "In the 5th place match, she faced a very good player in Wendt, who placed third in No. 1 singles at the SEK Tournament last week. Jennifer showed a lot of determination in this match coming from one set down to take the win against a very good player."
Senior Krista Hightower (7-9) was also entered in singles. She lost in the first round to Paige Smith of Labette County, 9-6.
"She played hard and gave us a great effort but just came up a little short," Barr said. "Although she did not advance, Krista played some of the best tennis of her high school career this season and I'm so proud of her and how far she has come in the last four years."
Abbi Groff of Independence beat Kipp in the singles final, 6-2, 6-0. Pittsburg's Katy Short took third place with a 6-7 (6-8), 6-2, 6-3 win over Ottawa's Rumford.
Kelsey Porter and Tyra Welch defeated Independence teammates Erin Wesselowski and Dee Mendoza for first place in doubles, 2-6, 6-1, 6-3. Chanute's Alexis Thuston and Abby Liudahl beat Parsons' Bree Rogers and Kelsey Jump for third place, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2.
The State Tournament will be held at Emporia High School's courts. First-round play will begin at 11:30 a.m. Friday. Saturday's action is scheduled to start at 9 a.m.