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Archive for Tuesday, October 15, 2002

t prevent Free State sweep

October 15, 2002

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— This time around, Abby and Sara Olson made it an all-Lawrence doubles final.

At the Sunflower League tennis tournament last week, Lawrence High's doubles team lost its semifinal in three sets to Shawnee Mission East, preventing the Lions from playing Free State's doubles team of Emily Loewen and Lacey Luina.

But at Monday's Class 6A regional tournament, the Olsons rallied for a three-set victory against Olathe East, then held off a pesky Topeka High team in three sets for the LHS-FSHS matchup.

At the beginning of the season, the sisters had just hoped to qualify for state. Now, with a state bid wrapped up, they could set their sights a little higher.

"I hope so," LHS coach Dick Wedel said. "That's why this win against Topeka was big. Many times kids have this goal to qualify, and they win the first two, then lose the next two and are seeded fourth at state. I really hope they won't be satisfied with just qualifying."

But they couldn't prevent a Firebird regionals sweep, losing 7-5, 6-3, as the Lions finished tied for third in the team standings with Overland Park Aquinas. That's nothing to be ashamed of though. Not many teams could hang with Free State on Monday.

The Firebirds won the team title  their third in the last four years  while senior Emily Wang (28-2) won her second straight regional singles title. The defending state champ trounced Overland Park Aquinas' Shannon Brown, 6-1, 6-0 in the final.

She, along with Loewen and Luina, will be seeded No. 1 at the state tournament, which starts Friday in Emporia.

Wang's comfortable in the top-seed role, while Loewen and Luina are just trying to keep their focus on what they've done so far  27-2 this season  and maybe doing the same at state.

"I think we can do good," Luina said. "We're just going to try and play our game and hope to win."

The FSHS pair have been honing their game since last year, while the Olsons have been playing doubles the last three weeks. At the start of the year, Wedel shifted his top four players  Abby, Sara, Becca Fritzel and Sydney Lartigue  around, trying to find the best combination. Finally, he paired the sisters together, which has paid dividends since.

"I wasn't sold on that at first," Wedel said. "Sometimes the sister/twin teams don't work well. But they are very comfortable playing with each other. They're supportive and don't get on each other. I think that's a little unusual for a sister pair."

By the time the Olsons faced Free State, the tournament had stretched into early evening and they were coming off back-to-back three-set matches. Yet, the 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win against Olathe East and the 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (7-4) win against Topeka High simply gave the Olsons more opportunities to practice with each other.

And at 9-6 overall, they might be hitting their stride at the right time of year.

"Teams like Free State have been playing together all year," Abby said. "Hopefully, we get to the level where we can do well at state."

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