“There is not a weak spot,” said Burns, Derby’s head tennis coach. “We may be a year behind, but hopefully we’ll catch up when they graduate some.”
But this class is the one Burns has been waiting for. Talented players have roamed the courts for Derby, but for the first time in years, there is an obvious sense of a breakthrough brewing.
Morgan Hughes is the headliner in No. 1 singles. She finished fourth at regionals as a sophomore, sending her to the 6A state tournament for the first time.
“Her goal is not only does she want to qualify for state again – she wants to place at state. That’s her next goal. She’s confident,” Burns said. “She had some good wins this summer over some opponents that seemed to have her number last year.”
Burns has hoped for more players like Hughes. This year, he may have found the perfect clone – her sister, Kenzie.
“She’s good at the net. She’s so tall that she plays really good at the baseline,” Burns said. “She’s shown it in singles. She’s not afraid to approach the net.”
Kenzie, who is tentatively penciled in at No. 2 singles, is one of several freshmen to make an early statement. Bailey Farris has impressed with her athleticism, making her an ideal fit for doubles. Kaylie Opskar is providing depth while waiting for an opportunity on varsity.
“They’re all athletes,” Burns said. “It’s a fun class.”
Juniors Anna Watkins and Kaitlyn Oline are hoping their experience will solidify their spots in No. 1 doubles. Sophomore Kourtney Richardson, who herself nearly qualified for state a year ago in singles, is a likely pair with Farris in doubles.
“We should have some more in the wings,” Burns said. “That’s the question - who will step up in doubles?”
It is a problem Burns is happy to have. Instead of worrying about who can plug a hole, Derby now has depth to spare.
The Panthers host the Derby Invitational on Sept. 13, which includes several Wichita schools. The AVCTL championship will be handed out Oct. 1, with regionals five days later.