The Kennett girls tennis team with its fourth-place plaque at the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield, Mo., Thursday afternoon. Pictured left to right is head coach Janet Hilburn, Darby Sparks, Kelsey Washburn, Anna Kay Hilburn, Kate White, Kara Heeb, Kate Shetley, Alexa McPherson and assistant coach Laura Ort.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Kennett girls tennis coach Janet Hilburn had few complaints about her team's performance at the Class 1 state final four in Springfield, Mo., after play concluded at Cooper Tennis Complex Thursday afternoon.
"The girls played well all day and I cannot ask for more effort," coach Hilburn said, when asked on her overall thoughts on her team's performance at the state final four. "They've given me a great season."
The Kennett Lady Indians placed fourth at the state final four Thursday. Barstow defeated Kennett 5-0 in its Class 1 state semifinal contest and Logan-Rogersville beat Kennett 5-0 in the Class 1 third-place match.
"We talked about the positives and the negatives," coach Hilburn said, when asked what she said to her team after the final four concluded. "We are looking forward to next year. We've seen the best of the best.
"We've seen we can compete with the competition at the state level and we shouldn't get our heads down," coach Hilburn continued. "We've got a great deal of work to do in the offseason because we want to be back here again next year."
Thursday's state final four matches were played in frigid and windy conditions. According to weather.com, winds gusted to 32 miles per hour in Springfield Thursday afternoon and temperatures remained in the 50s for most of the day.
Alexa McPherson observed first hand how the weather impacted play. McPherson had the luxury of playing her first varsity singles match against Barstow's Emily Reed on an indoor court and her second varsity singles match against Logan-Rogersville's Emma Ethridge outdoors.
"There was a huge difference," McPherson said of the two matches. "The wind out here was absolutely insane and then indoors it was really calm."
Kara Heeb was the only other Lady Indians' player who had the opportunity to play one of her two matches indoors. Heeb's first match against Barstow was indoors.
"I was really glad to come out here and compete," Heeb said. "I think our first match we played really hard, especially considering we were facing a private school. The second match could have gone better, but I think we left it all out on the court on a windy afternoon."
Junior Kelsey Washburn was the only Kennett player who elected to play sleeveless at the state final four.
"I don't really like sleeves when I serve," Washburn said. "I feel like they are heavier and I serve better without it. I could do without it and withstand the cold so I elected to go without sleeves."
Senior Anna Kay Hilburn was the only Lady Indians' player to win a set Thursday. Hilburn won the first set of her varsity singles match against Logan-Rogersville's Kristyn Young and dropped the second set. The match was retired before Hilburn and Young completed their third set because Logan-Rogersville had obtained five out of a possible nine points by winning the other five singles matches.
"We enjoyed it," Anna Kay Hilburn said of competing at the final four. "The first match I think we played the best we could play. The second match I don't think we reached our full potential. But the experience has been a blast.
"We appreciate the support from the community and hope everyone pushes the underclassmen this far next season also," she continued.
Kennett will return four of its six varsity starters next season. The Lady Indians will graduate Hilburn and Kate White. Hilburn went 16-5 in singles play in 2012 and White finished with a 9-7 record.
"The two seniors have brought in plenty of points this year and I'm pleased with them," coach Hilburn said.
White emotionally acknowledged she would miss playing high school tennis next season following play Thursday.
"I'm definitely going to miss it," White said. "Tennis is my favorite sport. It's hard leaving, but I definitely had a blast and made a great deal of memories."
Kennett junior Darby Sparks, who went 17-4 in varsity singles in 2012, is likely to compete for the No. 1 varsity singles spot in 2013.
"I've learned there is always new competition," Sparks said, when asked how she could use the 2012 experience as an advantage in 2013. "You have to be ready to adjust to everything and work your hardest. I'm going to work that much harder next season to hopefully take that No. 1 spot."
Heeb, which finished 13-3 in varsity singles matches as a sophomore in 2012, is among the Lady Indians' players hoping for a repeat trip before she graduates.
"It's definitely a possibility in the next few years, especially with Kate Shetley coming back from her injury next season," Heeb said, when asked about a repeat trip to state. "I'm really excited about the possibilities next year can bring because we are going to work as hard as we can now that we know what state-level competition is like."
Washburn finished with a 13-3 record in varsity singles. McPherson went 9-7 in varsity singles as a freshman.
"It's been a great team to be with," Washburn said. "I'm excited about the fourth-place win and think we deserved it. It's been an awesome experience."
Kennett's final record is 19-3 in team competition. Kennett put together a 19-game winning-streak and advanced to the state final four for the first time in school history.
"It's going to mean a great deal to them," coach Hilburn said, when asked what she thought the season would mean to her players a decade from now. "The entire way over here they kept saying 'we are the first group. We are the first team. We will always remember this.'
"This has really made a difference in their lives already and in 10 years I think it will continue to be a special moment for them," she continued. "The administration has been outstanding. The school system has been very supportive of us and very thankful of our accomplishments. The support has really meant something special to the girls."
View complete results for the Kennett-Logan Rogersville and Kennett-Barstow matches below:
Logan-Rogersville def. Kennett 5-0 (Class 1 third-place match)
Anna Kay Hilburn (K) vs. Kristyn Young, retired
Hannah Nixon (LR) def. Darby Sparks 6-4, 6-3
Madison Watts (LR) def. Kate White 6-1, 6-3
Karley Eakins (LR) def. Kelsey Washburn 6-2, 6-1
Stacey Williams (LR) def. Kara Heeb 6-1, 6-0
Emma Ethridge (LR) def. Alexa McPherson 6-0, 6-1
Barstow def. Kennett 5-0 (Class 1 state semfinal match)
Alena Frye (B) def. Anna Kay Hilburn 6-0, 6-0
Maddie Tadaos (B) def. Darby Sparks 6-1, 6-0
Lauren Estes (B) def. Kate White 6-0, 6-0
Kelsey Washburn (K) vs. Leis Shealy, retired
Kathryn Lundgren (B) def. Kara Heeb 6-4, 6-1
Emily Reed (B) def. Alexa McPherson 6-2, 6-0
Notes: Defending Class 1 state champion Visitation Academy defeated Barstow 5-1 in the Class 1 state championship.