When Blue Valley North and Shawnee Mission East met a week and a half before the Class 6A state tournament for a dual, all indication pointed toward them on a crash course for the team title.
What manifested on Friday and Saturday was just that: Blue Valley took the team title by six points over SM East. Blue Valley Northwest finished third.
“When you win the state championship as a team, you really have to pull together and each individual has to play well themselves as well as pull together and perform for the whole team win,” BV North coach Tracey Johnson said. “That actually is difficult to do and to do it two years in a row, I think these girls are pretty amazing.”
As the Mustangs and Lancers jockeyed for position atop the leaderboard, the two only matched up twice during the weekend — a fifth-place doubles match, which SM East’s Gretchen Cooper and Lucy Kendall took 9-7 over BV North’s Bridget Brown and Sydnee Paisner, and the highly anticipated singles championship between SM East’s Sarah Wilcox and BV North’s Chloe Kuckelman.
Kuckelman and Wilcox dominated the competition en route to the finale. In three matches leading up to the championship, Wilcox didn’t lose a single game, while Kuckelman had dropped three.
Neither Johnson nor SM East coach Andy Gibbs had seeing a more dominating run to a finals like the ones Kuckelman and Wilcox had performed.
“I can’t think of one where players, until they get to that point in the tournament,” Gibbs said. “I think they were clearly the two best players in the state in 6A and that’s not to take anything away from some of the other very, very excellent players. They were clearly the two best players in the state this year.”
It was Kuckelman who defeated Wilcox twice during the regular season, including an 8-6 win in their dual on Oct. 5. It was Wilcox who denied Kuckelman a regional championship title with an 0-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory handing Kuckelman her only loss on the season a week ago.
But in the end it was Kuckelman, a sophomore, taking the title 6-2, 6-2.
After Kuckelman won her title, teammates Evelyn Chang and Karen Yan had an opportunity to repeat as doubles champions give the Mustangs a sweep.
Like Kuckelman, Chang and Yan faced off against an opponent they had seen before — Blue Valley Northwest’s Kylee White and Alisa Prinyarux.
White and Prinyarux, undefeated heading into the finals, handed Chang and Yan their only loss during the regular season an 8-7 (7-4) victory in the Eastern Kansas League finals.
And undefeated White and Prinyarux stayed as they denied Chang and Yan a chance at a repeat with a 6-4, 7-5 victory.
The road for White and Prinyarux wasn’t easy.
“Hats off to the Blue Valley Northwest team,” Gibbs said. “They earned it. They beat Blue Valley North’s No. 2 team (Brown/Paisner) in their first match, who finished sixth. Our team (Cooper/Kendall), who finished fifth, was their second match. Our team (Joie Freirich and Larkin McLiney), who finished third, was their semifinal match and then they won their championship match.
“I don’t think they could have gotten a more difficult road to win a state championship and they were incrdible all weekend.”
White/Prinyanux defeated Brown/Paisner, 6-0, 6-3, defeated Cooper/Kendall, 6-2, 7-6 (7-1) and defeated Freirich/McLiney, 6-4,6-2.
Freirich and McLiney defeated Shawnee Mission Northwest’s Tamera Horton & Lily Oliver, 6-1, 6-2, for third place.
Blue Valley West’s Brylin Staats finished fourth in singles with Blue Valley’s Gabby Lee defeating Blue Valley North’s Athena Tran for fifth.