The Kennett varsity girls tennis team with its 2012 Class 1 first-place district plaque. Kennett defeated Notre Dame 5-2 Wednesday afternoon to secure its sixth straight district title in girls tennis. [Order this photo]
KENNETT, Mo. - Midway into her doubles match with partner Kate White Kennett's Kelsey Washburn thought of a plan she hoped would help lead Kennett to its sixth straight district title in girls tennis Wednesday afternoon.
Washburn rushed to Kennett tennis coach Janet Hilburn screaming 'I have a plan. I have plan,' after winning a point.
"The point we had just won I had just lobbed it the whole time because I was playing in the back," Washburn said, when asked what plan she thought of midway into her doubles match against Notre Dame's Anna Unterreiner and Maddie Walker. "When the net player was up I lobbed it over her head to make them switch. We won that game easily. I just wanted to let Kate know it would work. We did that a lot down the stretch and in the end we got it."
Washburn and White rallied to defeat Unterreiner-Walker 5-7, 6-1, 6-4. The victory halted doubles action on two other courts because it was the fifth match Kennett had won out of a possible nine in Wednesday's district championship against Notre Dame Regional High School.
The entire Kennett tennis team gathered on the court Washburn and White secured a victory on minutes later as Kennett hoisted its district championship plaque and celebrated a 5-2 postseason win against Notre Dame.
"Notre Dame has a good team," Kennett coach Janet Hilburn said. "I knew when they came today it was going to be a tough match and of course it was. I knew it would come down to the doubles competition and it did. I'm so proud of my girls. They stuck in there and fought hard all day. It's just a sweet victory after losing good players last year and having players step up to varsity this year. We've had a great year and coming down the stretch they have performed, won and fought hard in real tight situations when we needed them to play."
Kennett won four of the six varsity singles matches and the only varsity doubles match completed. The Kennett-Notre Dame match lasted over four hours. It started at 4 p.m. and ended at 8:05 p.m.
"I've never had a match that long," Kennett's Kara Heeb said. "It was a little different from what I'm use to. All the extra work we put in to stay in shape really did help."
Heeb's varsity singles match against Adele Soutar proved to be the longest of the marathon. Tie breakers were necessary to determine a winner in two of the three sets of the 2 hour, 50 minute match. Heeb ultimately outlasted her opponent 6-7, 7-6, 6-3. Heeb lost a first-set tiebreaker 7-5 and won a second-set tiebreaker 7-4.
"I just had to adjust and stay consistent," Heeb said, when asked how she bounced back after dropping the first set.
The No. 1 varsity singles match between Kennett senior Anna Kay Hilburn and Notre Dame freshman Carly Hopkins also featured a tiebreaker. Hilburn won set 1 7-6 when she won a first-set tiebreaker 11-9. Hilburn secured a 6-4 win in set 2 against Hopkins.
"I was just trying to get her frustrated," Hilburn said of her 2 hour, 30 minute singles match. "She had her head in it the whole time, but in the end I pulled through and made sure the shots I wanted to hit were hit."
Kennett's Darby Sparks beat Notre Dame's Reagan Kapp 6-3, 6-1, in the No. 2 singles match and Washburn beat Walker 6-2, 6-1, in the No. 4 singles match.
Unterreiner defeated White 6-2, 6-2, and Emily Young beat Alexa McPherson 6-1, 6-3, to account for Notre Dame's two victories.
Notre Dame had won the first set of the other two doubles matches, which were retired when Washburn-White won their doubles match because Kennett had calculated the five points needed to collect a team victory.
"It's definitely stressful knowing it is really that close," White said, when asked if there was extra added pressure in trying to secure the team-winning match. "We kind of changed our game plan after the first set. We weren't settled down with our lobs and getting good shots until the second set."
McPherson, who is the only freshman varsity starter on the team, said she tried to remain focussed on her closely contested doubles match on a neighboring court, but knew when it was time to celebrate the victory.
"Sometimes I pay attention, but normally I'm just focussed on my doubles match," McPherson said, when asked if she knew Kennett was one point away from winning. "But once we heard them screaming we knew we had done it."
Kennett has won a district title all four seasons seniors Hilburn and White have been on the team.
"It's amazing," Hilburn said. "It's awesome Kate and I can win a district title all four years of high school. We just cannot wait to play again next week."
Kennett's record improves to 17-1. Kennett has won 17 straight matches since it suffered a 9-0 loss to Jackson on Aug. 23. Kennett went 4-0 against Notre Dame in 2012.
"When we got out here in the summer they worked hard," coach Hilburn said. "They knew they were going to have to work hard and do extra besides just practice with me if they were going to rebuild the team. They have played on the weekends and outside of practice to get this far and get to this point. Our record has showed we've worked hard to get ready for the season.
"I feel we are ready," coach Hilburn said of advancing to the state sectional for a sixth straight season. "We are going to prepare hard and practice just like we always do."
Kennett will take on North County in a Class 1 sectional Oct. 13. No. 2 seeded North County (11-2) beat top-seeded Fredericktown 5-4 in its district final Wednesday. Kennett's sectional will be hosted by the winner of Class 1, District 3.
"I think we have a really good chance of making it to state this year," Sparks said. "We've been working really hard and this win was a really big win for us against Notre Dame. Notre Dame is one of the best teams I've seen in a while and hopefully we can continue coming out with a good start in our upcoming games and win the sectional."
View complete results from the Kennett-Notre Dame match below:
No. 1 - Anna Kay Hilburn (K) def. Carly Hopkins 7-6 (11-9), 6-4
No. 2 - Darby Sparks (K) def. Reagan Kapp 6-3, 6-1
No. 3 - Anna Unterreiner (ND) def. Kate White 6-2, 6-2
No. 4 - Kelsey Washburn (K) def. Maddie Walker 6-2, 6-1
No. 5 - Kara Heeb (K) def. Adele Soutar 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-4), 6-3
No. 6 - Emily Young (ND) def. Alexa McPherson 6-1, 6-3
No. 1 - Hilburn-Sparks (K) vs. Hopkins-Kapp, retired
No. 2 - White-Washburn (K) def. Unterreiner-Walker 5-7, 6-1, 6-4
No. 3 - Heeb-McPherson (K) vs. Soutar-Young, retired