A coach can understandably wonder what’s next when he sees three of his four state qualifiers graduate.
With a young talent pool returning, however, Dennis Burns is seeing the fruits of their labor blossom toward the back half of the tennis season.
Mia Agpoon took first in #2 singles at the Derby Invitational and led a group that all finished fourth or better. The doubles’ team of Lauren Towns/Charis Yager played in the #1 bracket final, but lost a tight match.
“This is the best we’ve played all year,” Burns said. “We’ve got room to grow, but it looks like we’ve turned a corner.”
Adora Weir-Dowd took third in No. 2 singles and the longtime Derby coach said he has been impressed by her competitiveness this fall.
“She takes third and you would have thought she was done 2-5 versus being up 5-2,” he said. “You can’t tell. She does her job and goes out there and is focused on winning.”
The Derby coach said Weir-Dowd and Agpoon have pulled away as the top singles’ players on this fall’s roster.
“We have some other people that want to play singles, but they’ve set themselves a mark above everyone else,” he said. “… They like hitting with each other because they are hitting harder and harder every day.”
Burns said it was the first time Towns/Yager had been paired in a tournament, but saw the room for improvement with regionals fast approaching.
“[Opponents would] hit it over our heads and they lobbed us,” Burns said of their play. “We’re coming in and being aggressive, but when they turn to hit the ball, we didn’t split step… They’d float in and wouldn’t break down. We’d be coming into the net, but wouldn’t have any chance on the ball. We’re going to get that play before too long.”
Rachel Dworak and Natalie Ulwelling reached the championship semifinals in #2 doubles, but ended up taking third after falling in the consolation finals to Tia Hines/Libby Jackson of Hutchinson.
“Our doubles played better,” Burns said. “We switched up some teams, but they’re all about even. We’re not doing a lot of things differently, but they’re believing in what we’re talking about. Lauren [Towns] is seeing things progress and understanding them. Good things are happening because of it.”
DERBY INVITATIONAL (Sept. 19)
def. Jessica Stratton, Wichita South (8-3)
lost to Gracie Foster, Hutchinson (8-2)
def. Rheagan Thompson, Wichita Northwest (8-4)
def. Millie Birchfield, Wichita Northwest (8-6)
def. Ella Payne, Salina Central (8-0)
def. Emilee Railsback, Hutchinson (8-1)
Lauren Towns/Charis Yager…
def. Lyly Le/Denise Reyes, Wichita North (8-2)
def. Caroline Fee/Lauren Davis, Hutchinson (8-5)
lost to Sydney Sorell/Molly Michaelis, Salina Central (8-5)
Rachel Dworak/Natalie Ulwelling…
def. Elizabeth Vizcarra-Beday/Sandra Chacon, Wichita South (8-1)
def. Emme Turpin/Mackenzie Nutter, Salina Central (8-6)
lost to Tia Hines/Libby Jackson, Hutchinson
1. Salina Central, 29
2. Derby, 23
3. Hutchinson, 22
4. Dodge City, 16
5. Wichita Northwest, 13
6. Wichita South, 8
7. Wichita Southeast, 3
8. Wichita North, 2