Bulldogs have double shot at title

? The tennis ball whizzed by Holly Oakleaf’s ear before smashing into a chain-link fence Thursday at the Baldwin High tennis courts.

When Oakleaf turned around, all three of her Bulldog teammates were roaring with laughter.

“I wasn’t trying to hit her, it just went there,” said Oakleaf’s giggling doubles teammate, Kalie Harris, after Baldwin’s final practice before today’s Class 4A state tournament at the Lawrence Tennis Center.

One can only wonder if the friendly fire involved the Bulldogs’ other doubles team of Carissa Venable and Jamie Lawrenz, who lost 7-6, 6-1, 6-1, to Oakleaf and Harris in Monday’s regional at Topeka.

“No, no, we wouldn’t try to do anything like that,” Lawrenz said with a smile.

OK, but with a state title on the line, anything’s possible.

“We get mad, we just get mad at everyone we play,” said Venable. “At least I do.”

Baldwin coach Ginny Honomichl would be thrilled if her doubles teams got one last match against each other.

“That would be awesome,” Honomichl said. “And doable.”

Honomichl would be giddy if the match came in Saturday’s finals, and so would Oakleaf.

“Hopefully for the championship,” Oakleaf said. “And not to knock somebody out.”

The two Bulldog teams have a combined record of 59-7, and Honomichl said each seems capable of beating the other  and the rest of the field.

“We know we won’t be seeded 1 or 2 because we’ve lost to two champions from the other regionals. But both teams have played well against the same competition,” Honomichl said.

Last season Oakleaf and then-senior Colleen Kivett knocked off Venable and Lawrenz to win the regional, but fell short at state.

This season, Honomichl has tried to combat her team’s inner competitiveness.

“We’ve really had to taper the practices, because they can be bad,” she said.

“The focus is incorrect. We’ve gone with a lot of games that use the different skills, instead of flat-out playing matches.”

Honomichl said each team was distinctly different in style of play and attitude, but similar personalities emerged.

But if they duke it out at state, Honomichl says she’ll stay out of the way and let the girls figure it out.

“These two teams would be No. 1 at just about any other school, it’s just that all four of them happen to go to the same school,” she said.

“But these girls have handled that really well and will continue to do so.”