The Wichita Collegiate Tournament of Champions is renowned for bringing together some of the best girls' tennis squads from around the state, marking an early test for athletes before the postseason.
But was Collegiate's Brooke Withrow challenged? Humbly, the defending 4A state champion says she had to fight to come out with the tournament singles title against a litany of top competitors.
“Today was a very tough day,” Withrow said. “The scores don't explain how the matches went.”
Statistically, it appeared easy.
Through five matches, Withrow dropped a combined four sets all day. Kapaun's Allie Schulte made it to the finals as a more than capable opponent, but still succumbed to an 8-2 defeat.
“I played her a couple weeks ago, and we always have great points,” Withrow said. “I can't take anything away from Allie. I knew she was going to be a tough player walking into it.”
Yet even with Withrow's supremacy, Collegiate settled for a runner-up performance. Bishop Carroll championed the tournament, eight points ahead of the Spartans.
Leading the Golden Eagles was the duo of Paige Lauer and Natalie Lubbers in doubles play.
Lauer and Lubbers knocked off Maize's Paige Lungwitz and Jess Holman 8-2 in semifinal action, setting up a showdown with a pair of City League rivals in the finals – Elizabeth Pringle and Carmen Mindt.
Kapaun stayed close with Carroll, but Lauer and Lubbers pulled away late, forcing tough shot returns in route to an 8-4 win.
“We usually talk about how to hit with the wind and how to work that. That helped with the lobs,” Lubbers said.
“If you look at the competition, it was an honor to get to play in the finals,” Lauer said. “It means a lot to beat such a good team. They played such a great match.”
Lauer was part of a doubles team that finished runner-up to Kapaun at the 5A state meet a year ago. The Collegiate tournament doubles title is a building block, but the season offers plenty more before conversations of a better state finish take place.
“We just need to keep working hard,” Lauer said. “State is a big deal. I wouldn't want to get ahead of ourselves.”
Maize placed third as a team, six points behind Collegiate. Kapaun and Ark City rounded out the top five.