By BRETT MARSHALL
It will be a youthful Garden City High School girls tennis players that heads to Prairie Village for the Class 6A state tournament which gets under way on Friday at the Harmon Park Tennis Center.
Sophomore Claire Schmidt earned the sixth and final qualifying spot in singles at Saturday's regional tournament in Maize while freshman Kaylee Keller and junior Jannette Martinez also qualified with a sixth-place finish in doubles.
The tournament, which is scheduled to begin play at 11:30 a.m. Friday, will conclude on Saturday.
For Schmidt, it will be the second consecutive trip to state after having gone a year ago in doubles with Mattie Silva. It will be the doubles team's first state appearance.
"Having a young team this will be great for them to experience state and will help them out next year," said GCHS coach Rod Robinson. "We'll likely be playing against a No. 2 or a No. 3 seed in the opening round, so we know they'll have very tough matches."
Schmidt will take a modest 21-19 record into the state meet while the Lady Buffs' doubles tandem go in with a 15-17 mark.
"Jannette and Kaylee have really improved their serves throughout the season," Robinson said of his doubles team. "Their ground strokes are better, and they're communicating better on the court. They are trusting each other more and more, too."
Of Schmidt, Robinson said her experience at the state a year ago should serve her well.
"She's improved in all phases," Robinson said of Schmidt. "Her feistyness is one of her strengths. She works so hard, and she plays every point with lots of fight. She probably played her best at regionals. She's hitting her groundstrokes a lot deeper with more power."
Greeley County and Cimarron will be represented at the Class 3-2-1A state girls tennis tournament with a pair of singles players and one doubles team.
Greeley County coach Jacque Meyers will have senior Morgan Reding in singles after a sixth-place finish at regionals in Cimarron, which were rain-delayed to a finish on Monday. The Lady Jackrabbits will also be represented by the doubles team of Bailey Harris and Monica Veleta, who placed second after falling in the championship match to Hope Harsberger and Kristy Flowers of Meade.
Cimarron's lone representative will be sophomore Morgan Ediger, who fashioned a third-place finish and will take a 17-13 record to the state meet which will get under way on Friday at 10:30 a.m. at the Hutchinson Community Tennis Center. Ediger captured third with a consolation match triumph over Tabitha Wolf of WaKeeney.
For Reding, it will be a return to the state tournament and Meyers is hoping for a strong finish for her senior player.
"We're hoping for a good last year at state for Megan," Meyers said. "If she plays well, she can be really competitive and I think she's the darkhorse of the tournament."
While Veleta is a senior, this is only her second year of playing competitive tennis and Harris is just a sophomore. They will take a 21-6 record to the state event.
"They just keep getting better and they're a lot more aggressive at the net instead of just putting shots over," Meyers said of her doubles team. "They have less unforced errors and are more comfortable with each other."
Meyers said Harris has utilized a strong forehand shot that she uses for cross-court placement. Veleta, who had been a cross country runner, has used her athleticism to improve.
"They've both got decent footwork and I think the fact that they play multiple sports, just makes them that more competitive," Meyers said.
The tournament runs through Saturday.