And why wouldn’t it be? After inclement weather prompted state tournament officials to postpone the event until Monday, the Cardinals claimed their first Class 3-2-1A girls’ state tennis team title, including the state doubles championship. On top of that, they had the No. 7 doubles team in the state, and the sixth place singles player.
Chelsea Ebenkamp and Stacy Sones defeated Central Plains’ Janae Hekele and Katie Hipp 7-5, 6-2 to claim the doubles’ championship. This marks the second consecutive year for Ebenkamp to win a state doubles’ title, although she did it with a different partner last year.
After Conway Springs claimed the first two in the first set with relative ease, Hekele and Hipp came from behind in the third game, and eventually built a 5-4 lead in the set. The Conway Springs duo fought back to win three in a row and claim the first set 7-5.
Ebenkamp and Sones refused to let their opponents pull ahead in the second set, eventually winning it 6-2 on a long hit from Central Plains.
“We have to give credit to Central Plains. We knew they’d be tough. They’re great competitors,” Conway Springs head coach Chris Bellar said. “But my girls were up and they showed character and the Central Plains came back and we showed our character to win three straight games in the first set. (Ebenkamp and Sones) are a fun doubles team to watch.”
2012 marked the second straight year Ebenkamp won a state title. Both girls competed at state a year ago, but with separate doubles teams. Winning back-to-back doubles championships was a goal of Ebenkamp’s, but she admitted to having doubts.
“(Winning state’s) what I was working for all year, but I really wasn’t expecting it going with someone new,” she said.
After trailing for part of the first set, the Conway Springs duo knew they didn’t want to let a state title slip away from them.
“We knew that when they came back, we had to keep stepping it up and keep hitting it to them, because they are a great team,” Ebenkamp said.
And instead of playing catch-up, they lead in the second set.
“After we won the first one, we had to start at square one and fight to win,” Sones said. “Since we’re both seniors, it feels really good to win.”
“We made sure we were on the offensive,” added Ebenkamp. “We give credit to Coach Bellar. He’s realy taught us a lot throughout the year. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him.”
The Cardinals’ doubles win garnered the most points toward the overall team title, but they also had Heather Koester win sixth in singles, after being defeated 9-4 by Hillsboro’s Allison Weber. The doubles team of Julie Ann Winter and Brittany Pauly took seventh in doubles, defeating Meade’s Kristy Flowers and Hope Harshberger 9-5.
Cece Robinson also qualified for state in singles for Conway Springs, but was eliminated before the final day of competition.
Conway Springs was the only school to send its entire varsity team to the Class 1-2-3A championships.
“That made it special because you don’t want to leave anyone at home,” said Bellar. “We’ve had some great kids and a great season. We’re going to enjoy it. Five of them made it today. My other singles girl lost yesterday. She plays really good tennis, but just didn’t get through it. Everybody else today won some good matches to seal up the state title.”
Central Plains finished second in team standings, while Wichita Independent was third.
Kansas City Christian’s Sara Goodwin won her second consecutive state singles title, while Norton Community’s Tawni Griffey was the runner-up for the second year in a row.
According to Goodwin, the second win was twice as nice.
“It’s really satisfying and it’s a lot better than last year. I was a lot less nervous and it was just a lot better match. I felt like it was an improvement from last year,” said Goodwin. “I played a lot better and she played a lot better and it was just a better match all around. I just picked the right time to attack. I didn’t get too defensive. My parents were here this year. They weren’t able to make it last year because they had to make a business trip, so that helped.”
Goodwin cruised through the bracket, winning each match 6-0, 6-0 until the finals. She went 6-1, 6-3 against Griffey.