Added experience is adding up for Free State High's girls tennis team.
Sparked by seasoned newcomers, the Firebirds defeated Blue Valley, 7-2, in a dual Tuesday at the FSHS courts. The match started 90 minutes late because the Tigers experienced transportation problems.
But, other than that ...
"We couldn't really do much better," FSHS coach Jon Renberger said. "The (doubles) teams that have played together obviously are showing that."
All told, the Firebirds won 22 of 26 matches against the Tigers, as the junior varsity team prevailed 5-2 and the sophomore squad rolled 10-0.
"This entire team effort is an excellent example of the improvements we've made," Renberger said. "We still have a lot of room for growth, yet the outlook is certainly positive."
One of the victorious doubles tandems was Free State's No. 2 duo of senior Kylie Renberger and sophomore Katie Bushouse. The team cruised past Blue Valley's Megan Killingsworth and Emily Kraft, 8-1. Renberger and Bushouse upped their record to 9-3 with the win.
Renberger also defeated Lindsey Long in singles, 8-2, and Bushouse knocked off Kraft, 8-2.
Renberger, the coach's sister, transferred to Free State from McPherson last season -- where she played varsity as a sophomore -- but wasn't eligible to play varsity for the Firebirds.
"McPherson definitely is a bigger tennis town," the younger Renberger said. "They have a lot more programs during the summer and just a lot more support from the community as a whole. But this program is really building and been getting a lot more support."
Renberger actually will be on the move again soon. After taking extra classes -- she has seven this semester instead of six -- the senior will graduate this winter and already has committed to play tennis in the spring for Hutchinson CC.
"I think it will be quite a bit different than high school tennis," Renberger said. "It should be pretty fun. You get to travel all over the state and have a combined season with girls and guys. So it should be interesting."
Junior Laura Gravino, who transferred to Free State from Lawrence High, teamed with senior Molly Winter for a 9-8 (7-5) win over Blue Valley's Blair Bertram and Sarah Spence at No. 1 doubles.
"We were a little bit nervous because of all the people watching," Gravino said. "It was the first home meet so we were both really nervous."
It also was the first time the two Firebirds had been paired together. Normally Gravino and Winter are Free State's No. 1 and No. 2 singles players, but the regular No. 1 doubles team of senior Kim Heck and sophomore Susie Epp was given the day off.
Gravino prevailed in No. 1 singles, 8-1, against Killingsworth. Winter was clipped by Kraft, 8-2.
"Sometimes I like singles because I don't feel as bad if I miss the ball," Gravino said. "I always feel kind of guilty. I feel bad for the other person. I'm more comfortable playing singles because that's what I normally play."
She might be more comfortable playing singles, but she's equally as cozy as either a Lion or a Firebird.
"They're both equal. They're both just as much fun," Gravino said. "I like both coaches. They both have fun teams."
In addition to the addition of Gravino -- who finished third in singles at the Class 6A state tournament last year -- and Renberger, the Firebirds also have high hopes for the sophomores on their varsity squad -- Bushouse and Epp.
"We weren't matching up with the other teams very well," Jon Renberger said. "Now we're not only matching up, but we've actually got the advantage in some situations. We've actually got a little bit more depth than most of the other teams that we play.
"Things have definitely turned in our favor in only one year. Certainly Laura and Kylie are a big part of that. Katie Bushouse, Susie Epp, our two sophomores, are a big part of that as well."
-- Robert Sinclair's phone message number is 832-7185. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Results in Scoreboard