Shawnee Mission East girls tennis team wins third straight state title — ‘Beyond excellent’

The Shawnee Mission East girls tennis team won the 2021 Kansas Class 6A state championship earlier this month. Above is the team, from left to right (front row): Coach Robin Sutton, Katie Murphy, Abigail Long, Bridget Epstein, Greta Stechschulte, Katie Schmidt and Bryson Langsford. Coaches Sue Hallstrom and Andy Gibbs are in the back row. Photo courtesy Andy Gibbs.

Shawnee Mission East’s girls tennis team are once again state champions.

For the third consecutive year and ninth time this century, East’s girls’ tennis team last week took home the title.

Coach Andy Gibbs pointed out that students in the state’s 6A classification compete in tennis tournaments year-round, and he said this year’s win is a reflection of the players’ commitment to the game.

“It is the product of their hard work and effort,” Gibbs said. “Shawnee Mission East has a long history of excellence in tennis, and being able to continue to add to that legacy is something that I think they enjoy.”

In its history, SM East girls tennis program has now taken home 20 state titles, according to records kept by the Kansas State High School Activities Association. (Seven of those trophies came before 1985, when the top prize went to schools’ doubles pairs and not an entire squad.)

Katie Schmidt, SM East girls tennis team
Katie Schmidt, alongside Abigail Long (not pictured), placed second in doubles at this year’s state championship. Photo credit Mac Moore.

Over the past 20 or so years, Gibbs said the 6A girls tennis state championship has been a tug-of-war between SM East and Blue Valley North, which had one the trophy in Class 6A four straight years before tying with East in 2019.

That began SM East’s run of three straight championships.

On this year’s squad, Bryson Langford and Greta Stechschulte also took first place in doubles, with teammates Abigail Long and Katie Schmidt placing second in doubles.

Bridget Epstein placed fourth in singles, and Katie Murphy placed seventh in singles.

But the tennis team’s excellence goes beyond the court. Gibbs said the students are involved in various other school activities and, overall, are “an impressive group.”

“It’s just a great group of players to be able to work with,” Gibbs said. “Beyond being excellent tennis players, they are good people and they’re involved in lots of other things, too, within our school.”