Moving up Lady Buffs improve from fourth to second in WAC tennis.
By BRETT MARSHALL
When the 2012 fall tennis season started for the Garden City High School Lady Buffs, head coach Rod Robinson didn't know what to expect with a team that had no seniors dotting its roster.
As the season now draws to a close, Robinson can see the improvement that his underclassman-dominated squad has made over the last month.
That was never more evident than on Monday at the Western Athletic Conference tournament, played at the GCHS tennis complex.
The Lady Buffs moved up from a fourth-place finish to second this year, finishing with nine points, well back of champion Great Bend, which fashioned a perfect day by scoring 16 points, winning every match in the two singles and two doubles divisions.
Third went to 2011 champion Hays High with seven points, followed by Dodge City with five and Liberal with three.
The top finisher for the Lady Buffs was junior Bryttany Landon, who placed second in the No. 2 singles division.
Landon, playing singles this season after occupying a spot on the doubles team a year ago, posted a 3-1 record for the day, losing only in the final and what proved to be the championship match against Great Bend's Macy Moyers.
Moyers has won every match against Landon this season, but on Monday Landon was able to win a couple of games against the talented freshman. All in all, it was a good day for Landon.
"This is a whole lot better after last year," Landon said, referring to a fourth-place doubles finish at Great Bend. "I'm glad I decided to try singles this year. I've improved my ground strokes, and I'm hitting the ball harder. I've really worked hard on my serves. I just like the pace of the game that singles offers."
In her second match of the day, against Dodge City's Cadence Keeten, Landon found herself down 5-1 in the eight-game match format. She rallied to win that one in a tiebreaker (7-4) and it seemed to give her that psychological lift to carry her through the rest of the day.
"I had beaten her twice, and I was double-faulting and my back hurt some," Landon said of the stiffness she felt all over her back. "It's been a tough several days (three tournaments in five days). McPherson (on Saturday) was a tough time (going 1-5) and I just had to find a way to pick myself up."
That momentum for Landon propelled her to a dominating 8-2 win over Hays' Brooke Forinash before reaching the deciding match against Moyers. She had opened the tourney with a solid 8-5 win over Liberal's Lauren Harp.
For the rest of the Lady Buffs, it was a middle-of-the-pack finish, claiming thirds by Claire Schmidt in No. 1 singles while the No. 1 doubles team of Jannette Martinez and Kaylee Keller placed third and the No. 2 team of Allison Doll and Andrea Villela lost a tiebreaker for second and third after tying with Hays and Liberal at 2-2.
"Getting second is certainly a good improvement for us," Robinson said of the team's performance. "This is good momentum for us going into regionals."
The Class 6A regional, where a sixth-place or higher finish is needed to qualify for state, will be Saturday at Maize South's courts. The tournament is slated to begin at 9 a.m.
"Bryttany played very well today, and she's just gotten steadily better this season," Robinson said. "She's medaled at just about every tournament we've been at this season. All the girls have improved significantly."
For Landon, the expectation at regionals has been put in perspective.
"It's definitely nice to push myself, but no matter what happens at regional, as long as I go out and play hard, I'll learn from it," Landon said.
Schmidt finished her day with a 2-2 record, beating Liberal's Maddie Rees (8-2) and Hays' Shelby Dinkel (8-2). She dropped another tiebreaker to Dodge City's Kelly Brauer (8-7), the third tiebreaker the two have played this season. She also lost to eventual champion Morgan Francis of Great Bend, 8-2, in the final round. Schmidt has yet to beat Francis and owns one win in five matches against Brauer.
"There's just some really good players at the top in the WAC this year," Robinson said of the No. 1 singles division. "Claire's improved a lot, and she's played matches with Brauer that could go the other way."
Results in Scoreboard, Page B2.