PRATT, Kan. Hesston's Martin sisters pull off doubles title in 3-2-1A
Sisters know best, you know? Those two words are a common refrain for Hesston's Martin sisters. Saturday afternoon in Pratt, senior Kylie and sophomore Michaela wrapped up a state championship at the Class 3-2-1A State Tennis Championships. In singles action, Kansas City Christian junior Lilly McNeill downed Central Plains junior Emily Ryan for a second-straight title.
The Martins advanced to the state finals last year only to fall to teammates Makaiya Russell and Ashley Hubbard. This year, as regional champions out of the toughest of the four regionals, the pair was among the favorites for the title.
The Martins surrendered just one game in a second-round win over Wichita Classical School. A 6-4, 6-3 win over Ellsworth's Kassie Sheridan and Cassidy Kroboth put Hesston back into the semifinals.
That's where things got a little sticky. Playing against Sterling's returning state qualifying team of Jasmine Bates and Lydia Miller, the Martins took the first set easy enough at 6-3. The Lady Black Bears battled back to take the second set 7-5. Hesston buckled down in the third to win 6-3.
"We knew we could do it," Kylie said. "We never felt like it was out of control at any point. We knew we had a common goal."
In the other semifinal, Kansas City Christian's Juliet Bartels and Emily Arnold, runners-up at the Hesston regional, needed three sets to get by Conway Springs' team of Kara Koester and Karlee Osner. The finals were set.
But the winner was never in doubt. The Martins cruised to a 6-0 opening set against Bartels and Arnold. The squads battled back and forth in the second set before Hesston needed a few deuce points to secure the title.
"Against Sterling, they hit a completely different ball," said Kylie. "For us, we like the way Kansas City hits at us. That was just easier for us to handle which is why you saw two different teams."
The Martins finish the season at 26-4 overall. Michaela will have to find a new partner in 2019 with her big sister graduating a state tennis champion. "It's kind of hard to let her go but she'll do great things," Michaela said.
Conway Springs' Koester and Osner defeated Sterling's Bates and Miller 6-2, 6-2 in the third-place match. Perry-Lecompton's senior duo of Graci Folks and Samantha Worthington moved through the back of the bracket for fifth place.
McNeill survives in rematch against Ryan
Last year's state championship match saw a pair of dominant players who had moved through the singles bracket with ease. In the end, Central Plains sophomore Emily Ryan was no match for Kansas City Christian sophomore Lilly McNeill in a 6-2, 6-0 loss.
But Ryan only improved in the offseason. The state's best basketball player brought to Pratt the only perfect record in either bracket in 3-2-1A. She pulled off the only perfect score through the first two rounds of play, then defeated KCC's Emma Sand 6-2, 6-0 to reach the semifinals.
In the other off half the bracket, McNeill was equally as impressive. She brought a 20-1 record to state and opened with a 6-0, 6-1 win over Phillipsburg, and a 6-3, 6-0 win over Independent's Sence Cadman, the fourth-place finisher from 2017.
With the weather behaving on championship Saturday, both players coasted into the finals. McNeill nearly blanked Sacred Heart's Lily Perrin 6-2, 6-0, and Ryan defeated Hesston's Halle Krehbiel, the reigning fifth-place finisher 6-0, 6-2.
That set up the big rematch for all the marbles. This time, it was Ryan jumping out to a quick 4-0 lead. "I came in strong and she had some jitters," Ryan said. "She wasn't hitting some of the shots she was hitting later in the match. She was amazing at the end."
McNeill came all the way back to take the first set 6-4. That momentum carried into the second and final set for a 6-3 score. "I was pretty nervous," said McNeill. "I was the favorite and I was supposed to win so all the pressure made me nervous. I really didn't want to lose so I tried to fight as hard as I could."
With two juniors in the finals, the stage is already set for a third showdown between the two powerhouses in 2019. "I have a lot of respect for her," McNeill said. "She's a great athlete and it's a fun rivalry."
"It's a lot of motivation," said Ryan. "She's very talented and I'm going to try and close the gap a little more."
Perrin defeated Krehbiel 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1 in a well-contested third-place match. KCC's Sand defeated Cadman 9-1 in the fifth-place match.
Kansas City Christian wins the Class 3-2-1A team title for a second-straight season.