By BRETT MARSHALL
It was just less than a month ago that the Garden City Lady Buffs' tennis team finished second to Western Athletic Conference rival Great Bend at the Lady Panther Invitational.
That was the season-opening meet for coach Rod Robinson's squad and they came up nine points short in a runner-up finish to Great Bend.
On Monday, at the WAC championship in Liberal, the Lady Buffs closed the gap, but still came up just short as Great Bend won the tournament by the narrowest of margins — one point — to leave the Lady Buffs and Robinson disappointed, but knowing they had made it a battle.
"We were still chasing them all the way to the end," Robinson said of Great Bend's 14-13 margin. "We won 13 of 16 matches, and the three losses were all to Great Bend. That's the difference."
The No. 2 doubles team of Allison Doll and Tania Carmona-Pastrana were the lone Garden City division winner, capturing all four of their matches, including an 8-2 romp over Carly Boyd and Taylor Husling of Great Bend. They defeated Liberal, Dodge City and Hays, and in the process lost only two games.
"They played their usual steady game and were able to get the first-place finish," Robinson said. "It's a big confidence builder for them."
The No. 1 doubles team of Claire Schmidt and Shai Cartmill went 3-1 in their second-place finish, dominating the Hays, Liberal and Dodge City duos while losing just five games in those three matches. They dropped an 8-2 decision to Macy Moyers and Brianna Schartz of Great Bend in a match that was closer than the score would indicate.
"Every game went to at least a deuce or two, but they just couldn't win the critical points," Robinson said of Schmidt and Cartmill. "They fought hard for every point in the match and never gave up."
Both singles players — Jannette Martinez at No. 1 and Andrea Villela at No. 2 — claimed runner-up spots, as well. Martinez swept past the Dodge, Liberal and Hays players with wins of 8-5, 8-4 and 8-5, but then was blanked 8-0 by Morgan Francis of the Panthers.
Villela had much of the same success against Dodge, Liberal and Hays, losing only six games in three matches (8-3, 8-2, 8-1 wins) before being dumped by Jamie McVay of Great Bend, 8-1.
"We've had a lot of tournaments in a short period of time, and I think we're tournament-tough now," Robinson said.
The Lady Buffs will host the seven-team Class 6A regional tournament on Saturday with play scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at the GCHS Tennis Complex. The top six finishers in singles and doubles will qualify for the state tournament, which is slated for Oct. 18 and 19 at Maize South High School.
"Everybody's coming in with a good record, and I think we've got a good chance, the best since I've been here, of qualifying the entire team," Robinson said.
Teams entered include Dodge City, Campus, Hutchinson, Maize, Wichita Northwest and Wichita South.
While the GCHS boys soccer team competes twice this week against Western Athletic Conference rivals Liberal (today at Liberal at 5:30 p.m.) and Great Bend (a 5:30 p.m. home game on Thursday), pairings were announced for the Wichita North Cup, which gets under way in Wichita on Monday.
The Buffs drew the No. 3 seed and will face host Wichita North in a 3:15 p.m. contest at the Wichita soccer complex (1000 W. 25th Street (25th and Arkansas).
A victory by the Buffs would put them into the semifinals at 5:15 p.m. on Oct. 16 against the winner of the Wichita Trinity Academy-Wichita West opening-round game. On the other side of the bracket, No. 1-seeded Berean Academy takes on TMP-Marian at 3:35 p.m., while No. 5 Liberal takes on Wichita East at 5:15 p.m. on Tuesday.