Kennett's Anna Kay Hilburn (right) and Darby Sparks (left) take the court for their doubles match Friday. [Order this photo]
"When you get to the state level it is serious tennis," Kennett coach Janet Hilburn said. "There are a number of girls that have had more tennis instruction than us so it's a privilege for us to be here at the state level. It's good for the girls and a gift. I'm proud of them for competing."
Sparks and Hilburn took on Forsyth's Samantha Johnson and Avery Lawson in the first match at the state doubles tournament Friday morning. The two teams traded the first four points to leave set 1 tied at 2-2. Johnson and Lawson won the next three points to take a 5-2 lead before Hilburn and Sparks rallied to go on top 6-5. Johnson-Lawson scored the next point to tie the first set at 6-6 and force a tiebreaker.
"They regrouped and started communicating better," coach Hilburn said. "When things aren't going your way that's what you have to do. They came back and got things even, but we came up short in the tiebreaker."
Hilburn-Sparks jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the tiebreaker. Johnson-Lawson won the next five rallies to take a 5-2 lead and eventually won the first-set tiebreaker 7-3.
Johnson-Lawson and Hilburn-Sparks were tied 2-2 in set 2. Johnson-Lawson scored the final four points in set 2 on their way to a 6-2 win. Johnson-Lawson improved their doubles record to 23-3 with 7-6 (7-2), 6-2, win against Hilburn-Sparks
"I think we didn't play as good as we could have," Anna Kay Hilburn said. "They are a good team though. It was just great to be up here competing with the best team in the state."
Sparks-Hilburn took on Grain Valley's Nathalia Barr and Mariah Hernandez in their consolation match at the double-elimination tournament Friday afternoon. Barr-Hernandez entered the contest with a 20-5 record.
Hilburn-Sparks jumped out to a 2-0 lead in set 1. Barr-Hernandez scored six of the next seven points to secure a 6-3 first-set victory.
Hilburn-Sparks led the second set 2-1, but Barr-Hernandez managed to record the next five points for a 6-2 second set win.
"The first match we played hard," Sparks said. "I don't think it was our best match. I think we played better in the second match than the first. We just couldn't come through with a win."
Sparks-Hilburn finish the season with a 14-6 record in doubles.
"Overall our tennis experience has been wonderful and I couldn't ask for more effort," coach Hilburn said. "We hope to be back next year."
It is the final doubles match the upperclassmen will play together. Hilburn, a senior, played her final high school tennis match Friday when she competed with Sparks at the state tournament.
"We had a great season and had a lot of fun together," Sparks said. "It was just great our last match together was at state. We are really excited about that and I'll miss playing with her next year."
Sparks, a junior, will have a new doubles partner next season.
"It's been awesome," Anna Kay Hilburn said. "I couldn't ask for a better doubles partner and I'm sure she will do great next season."