Since a three-set loss to Shawnee Mission South's Cassie Drake in the Sunflower League No. 1 singles tennis final Oct. 5, Free State High junior Laura Gravino has been thinking rematch.
"That's all I want is to play Cassie again," said Gravino, following her regional championship win. "I want to play her really bad."
Gravino may get her wish granted this weekend, preferably in the championship, at the Class 6A state tournament at Topeka's Kossover Tennis Center. The first round is set for 12:30 p.m. today. The tourney concludes Saturday.
Drake, 16-2 and the two-time defending Class 6A state champ, and Gravino (29-1) are among the favorites to win state. Gravino beat Drake two weeks ago in their first meeting. Manhattan junior Maria Rosenberg (21-0) is also a contender.
"Cassie, Laura and Maria are the three strongest players I've seen," Free State coach Jon Renberger said.
Besides Gravino, Free State qualified freshman Emily Wang (12-1) and its No. 1 doubles team of senior Kim Heck and sophomore Susie Epp (26-8). The Firebirds won team titles at Sunflower League last week and the Class 6A regional Monday.
"We feel really confident going into state," Renberger said. "As regional champs and league champs, the four girls are focused enough to know that their season isn't over and we have some high aspirations for this weekend."
Free State, Blue Valley North, Manhattan and Garden City all have three state entries, increasing their chances of scoring team points.
"I would certainly think we'd be among the favorites for the team title," Renberger said. "It's going to make it pretty competitive. We've focused on having a good week of practice. These are high school kids and anything can happen."
LHS qualified singles player Brooke Seymour (15-5) and the doubles team of Lisa Dixon and Katherine Wells (8-8).
Seymour, state singles runner-up in 1997, is making her third consecutive state appearance. She played doubles last fall.
"I think Brooke is one of the top four or five players in the state," LHS coach Dick Wedel said. "The worst thing is when you lose and didn't try your hardest. Brooke always tries hard."
At the 4A state meet this weekend in Hutchinson, Baldwin will have two singles players and two doubles teams. BHS qualified its entire team for the first time since 1988.
Seniors Andrea Irick (27-6) and Crystal Tutschulte (19-9) will play singles for Baldwin. Baldwin's doubles teams are senior Natalie Moreau and freshman Holly Oakleaf (26-3), and senior Emily Black and Suzie Weege (25-6).
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